While it started out as curiosity fueled by my deep respect for Noam Chomsky and the field of linguistics, Japanese is now very personal to me. I've become vested in the language and the culture that surrounds it.
We got in touch with some French alumni and asked them what they were up to. All these years later, how has their time in the Villages impacted their lives?
Grant Patxi Boulanger arrived at the El Lago del Bosque as a young man, ready to share his love of language. Little did he know that his experience with the Language Villages would change the course of his life.
Six days from now, I will be deploying to Sierra Leone to assist with the U.S. government’s efforts to respond to the Ebola outbreak. Growing up, never would I have imagined that I would have the opportunity to contribute to such an important effort. Gosh, how did I, as a girl from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota end up where I am today?
Once a villager at Lac du Bois in 1965, Jill Mattson chose to return to Concordia Language Villages in September 2013 to brush up on her French. Besides majoring in the language in college, Jill spoke French sparingly after her first trip to Lac du Bois as a teenager. So, when she planned a trip to France with her cousin for late spring 2014, Jill decided it would be a good idea to return ot the camp of her youth.
Jane Peterson is proud of her daughter Sarah. Jane writes in her article “Westerners can level playing field by learning Mandarin,” for The Straits Times (an English-language daily broadsheet newspaper based in Singapore), “As I watched Mrs. Michelle Obama struggle to paint a single Chinese character, I am grateful my Anglo-American daughter already knows thousands of them.”
“Learn what you want to learn – whatever language it is, whatever science or idea – go after it with your genuine curiosity.”
This is the advice Marty Fankhanel would give to the many young Concordia Language Villages participants, stemming from his family’s culture of volunteerism . . .
Former villager and current staff member at Waldsee, Kate Katja Bussert attends Wellesley College and works in its theater department as a jack-of-all-trades. She does everything from building sets to direting productions, purchasing lumber and balancing budgets. Katja also has a long history with theater at Concordia Language Villages.
When William Jabril Scannel saw on his dad's Twitter feed that Qatar Foundation International was holding a clothing drive for Syrian refugees, he did not just ask questions. He decided to do something.
"Nobody really deserves to be cold," the eight-year-old says.
In 2008, Marie Luiza Lefebvre was nervous about attending Mar e Floresta, the Portugese Language Village.
“I was nervous because I came knowing no Portuguese, but I soon realized most of the other campers were in the same boat as me. It was easy to bond with each other and make friends . . .”
Many parents recognize the importance of exposing their children to language at an early age. But what do you do when you are not quite ready to send your young child away to camp? You do what the Ridgway family did and attend family camp!
Megan Brígida Jones felt her journey with the Villages was complete after seven years of Spanish at El Lago del Bosque. However, when she was offered an opportunity to attend Mar e Floresta, Brígida leaped at the prospect of learning Portuguese.
"I 100-percent fell in love with the language," says Brígida. "It's really easy to communicate in Portuguese, but the beauty of the language is under-appreciated. I wanted to learn more."
After graduating from high school, Brígida enrolled in the University of Tulsa, Okla., and chose to study Portuguese alongside business and Spanish. Brígida's decision to study Portuguese was not made lightly.
It is not uncommon for villagers and staff to go out into the world and use the language and culture lessons learned at Concordia Language Villages to overcome barriers. But less frequently do alumni utilize the village experience itself to create solutions. Joseph Joel Yang, a Lac do Bois veteran with three years of experience as both a credit villager and staff member, saw an opportunity to use his background as a tool for facilitating youth activities at Yang family gatherings.
The mission of Concordia Language Villages is to prepare young people for responsible citizenship in our global community. For villagers like Hannah Evy Adamson, this mission is one that has been taken to heart. Evy, a six-year Skogfjorden villager and three-year counselor, first entered the Villages at the age of ten.
Dan Ou Dan O’Hara came to Sēn Lín Hú with a Chinese name already from living in Shanghai. “The character for ‘Ou’ is in a few common last names. It means ‘European.’ The ‘Dan’ part uses the same character as one of the Chinese philosopher’ Lao Tzu’s’ alternate names. I still use that as my Chinese name now in my work for the State Department.”
Over the years, El Lago del Bosque became Laura Sol Nuñez’s second home. She was about ten years old when she first attended a week at the Spanish Language Village. Sol spent seven summers as a villager, and then went on to work as a counselor for ten years. She was part of the first staff to work at the Bemidji site when it was finished in 2000.
Sol spent a year from 2006 to 2007 as a Fulbright scholar in Peru studying the impact of political decentralization on legislative policies on marginalized rural indigenous communities.
Caitlyn Lili Davis is a sophomore at Cottey College in Nevada, Mo., who has spent five summers at El Lago del Bosque, the Spanish Language Village, at the Bemidji, Callaway and Cass Lake, Minn., sites, first as a villager and then as a staff member. Lili studies Global Studies with an emphasis in education and literature.