My STEP project was a Summer Global Internship in Santiago, Chile, which was completed through the Fisher College of Business. During my internship, I working for a start-up Accounting firm and completed multiple tasks, including bookkeeping, tax preparation, financial statement analysis, and more.
During my STEP project, I was surrounded by people that didn’t speak the same language as me, had a different cultural background than me, and lived in a city that was much larger than the one I was from. At the beginning of my two months in Chile, I quickly realized that simple things that I took for granted, such as ordering food at a restaurant or asking for directions, were much more difficult when I had to speak in barely passable Spanish to people that didn’t understand English. However, most people that I met were very kind and understanding of the difficulties that I faced. Everywhere I went, people would notice that my accent wasn’t Chilean, and they would ask where I was from. When I told them I was American, I expected them to judge me or stereotype me. Instead, they asked many questions and wanted to learn more about my way of life in the US. One thing that I had been told a lot in the US is that people from other countries thought negatively of Americans, so when I went abroad, I unknowingly stereotyped myself. I was glad to find out that I was accepted in Chile, and it made my experience very rewarding.
On the first day of my internship, I was greeted by a room full of happy Chilean accountants speaking rapidly in Spanish, which was overwhelming to say the least. It was very difficult to understand them, and I struggled to greet them all and respond to their questions. However, in the following days, I could understand more and more of their speech. The most difficult aspect of adjusting to their language and culture was learning business Spanish to supplement the basic Spanish I had learned in my classes. I frequently had to use a translator for words that I couldn’t remember. When we all ate lunch together during our break, we would talk about topics outside of our work, and that was when I really was able to practice my conversational Spanish and improve my abilities.
I also learned about the culture and the language at a table tennis club that I trained at while in Santiago. The people at the club used a lot of slang, and many of the players were near my age and tried to teach me how to speak Chilean Spanish. They asked many questions about the United States, and were very eager to talk to me, especially to practice the little English that they knew. The table tennis club was a second home for me, I made friends there and learned aspects of Spanish that aren’t taught in any classroom. Additionally, I had to learn new vocabulary for table tennis too. I had never been taught words like “forehand” or “block” in Spanish, so I was starting from scratch. Thankfully, they were patient with me and were more than happy to teach me, and I learned a lot from them.
Finally, I learned the most from the friends that I made in Santiago. One night at the table tennis club, I met someone who was a year younger than me and was very passionate about learning English. He immediately added me on Facebook and WhatsApp and we spoke to each other in English and Spanish every day and spent a lot of time together. He invited me to his home for dinner one day, and I saw what the inside of a home in Chile looked like and how a Chilean family functions. While you can learn about a country’s cuisine by going to restaurants, it isn’t as rewarding as spending time with someone and enjoying a home-cooked meal. I also spent time with another friend I made from the table tennis club, he didn’t speak any English but whenever he saw me at the club, his face would light up and we would talk between games.
During the summer after my junior year of high school, I went on a service trip to Guatemala and worked in an eyeglass clinic and tested patients’ vision. That was my first experience in a Spanish-speaking country, and from that point on, I had a dream; my dream was to live and work in a Spanish-speaking country. When I learned about Ohio State’s Summer Global Internship Program, I saw an opportunity to make my dream come true. During my internship, I was able to achieve my goal and advance my career by increasing my knowledge of the Spanish language and learning more about Accounting. At the end of my internship, I was given the option to return the next summer to work for the company, and if I wanted, to work for them in Chile full time once I graduated. The people that I met in Chile and the work and activities I did there have significantly enhanced my knowledge and abilities, and have prepared me to excel in my Spanish and Business classes at Ohio State.