Diego Valenzuela ’16
Coming to the United States as an international student can be a little challenging. You hear people speaking in a foreign language with a hint of what they call the “southern twang.” You see new clothing brands like Vineyard Vines and Southern Tide. You learn that a sport called “lacrosse” exists. As an international student, ‘Murica’ can sometimes be the most confusing place that we have ever experienced. For internationals, this place will always be shocking, scary and intimidating. However, it is the land of opportunity, and can be one of the best opportunities of your life.
Back in Mexico school spirit meant wearing a shirt with the name of your school. No one cared about other schools; schools didn’t even have a rival. In America, however, it is very different. Our relentless competition against St. Chris and Episcopal incited a dormant, protective feeling towards my new school, Woodberry. As freshmen, we quickly absorb this new feeling of school spirit and rivalry. I found myself going to football games – even though I didn’t understand the rules of the game –just screaming, jumping and doing everything possible to distract the opposition. In my tennis matches, I didn’t just want to win, I wanted to embarrass and humiliate the other team. Having school spirit, however, seems to have a trade off. In tennis, my wins became more glorious and empowering; my losses became more humiliating and infuriating. Yet, as my senior year encloses, I know this lofty level of school spirit will continue with me after I’ve graduated.
Ironically, all the Spanish grammar that I have learned, I have learned at Woodberry. People approach me with thousands of questions on Spanish grammar: do we use the conditional here? What is the deal with reflexive words? I tend to answer that I’ve no idea what they’re talking about. They never believe me. However, it’s true, I never learned Spanish grammar. I just know how to speak it and write it, but I never spent a single minute learning all the grammar rules that the language seems to have. So, instead of teaching them, I end up being the one getting a lesson on grammar. For me this wasn’t as much of a surprise as it was for my peers. The one thing that they thought I could help them with, was the one thing that I couldn’t. In the same sense, particulars I did not expect from Woodberry is something they do the best.
Being an international student is one of the most significant learning experiences I have undergone. Regardless of learning about school spirit or my lack of knowledge in Spanish grammar; being an international student comes with the perk of diving into a completely different culture, in this case, a traditional, Southern lifestyle. I’ve learned about some of the issues and problems that America faces: the divisive politics, cultural differences between the north and south, and more. Coming to America can be confusing, but it is undoubtedly an invaluable learning experience.