From Prescott, Arizona, Javi studies international relations at American University in Washington, D.C., and plays saxophone for pocket money. He hopes to study in either Cuba or Chile beginning in January 2008 and eventually wants to work in either diplomacy or activism on behalf of human rights. Below is Javi’s story of how he found El Lago del Bosque, why he became a counselor and his contributions as a third year staff member.
Why El Lago del Bosque?
“I first heard of Concordia in 2002, the year I decided to attend my first session. Two friends had told me how much they learned at Concordia, and I decided to give it a shot. I’d heard it was the best language immersion program in the country, and I wanted to learn from the best. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. As a result of the three credit sessions I spent as a villager, I made life-long friends, achieved greater cultural awareness and sensitivity, and most importantly, fluency in Spanish.
Why did you decide to become a consejero?
“I decided to become a counselor for two reasons. First, I wanted to give back to a program that had given me so much. More importantly, I think knowledge of more than one language and culture is essential if the coming generation is to keep the world safe from intolerance, social and cultural bigotry, environmental degradation, oppression, and the gross inequality that threaten us all in an increasingly interconnected world.”
Javi’s days as a consejero at El Lago del Bosque
“As a staff member, I believe I offer intellect, a knowledge of various cultures, leadership skills, and competence around campers. I can also offer my friendship, and my perspective as a totally blind counselor as a teaching tool.
I’ve blended my personal interests into teaching a class about the effects of politics on Cuban music. At the Spanish Language Village, in our materias elegidas coursework (additional classes for credit villagers outside of grammar course curriculum), I’m also teaching a more strictly political class regarding immigration from Latin America to the United States.”
Challenges and joys of life at the Village?
“I encounter a wide variety of challenges as a staff member, everything from keeping villagers in order to communicating regularly in a language in which I’m a non-native speaker. The fact that I’m totally blind makes communicating with American students in Spanish all the more difficult, due to my lack of knowledge of such visual cues as hand gestures and body language. However, I believe my blindness also allows me to bring benefits to the table, by giving me a perspective on language comprehension unattainable to others.
I enjoy interacting with villagers in several ways. The fact that I’m 20 years old, and therefore close to them in age, allows me to understand what they’re going through during their completion of the program and to be of help to them in hard times. I also consider many of them friends, because I still have a lot in common with them despite the slight age difference. I also learn a lot from them; it could be anything from how to teach language more effectively, to sharing life experience. I like to teach them about my own life experience, those of people I’ve met, and how to communicate with fluency and sensitivity in another language.”