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Internationalizing the Curriculum: Study Abroad as a Tool for Redefining and Reconstructing National Identity in a Global Context
Unformatted Document Text:  France & Rogers 19 During their experiences abroad, these students also had to encounter a country in which the major language was not English and the population was overwhelmingly what they characterized as “non-white.” While the majority of students had completed the College of Charleston’s requirements for “proficiency” of Spanish, it was not until their time abroad in Cuba that they realized the importance of learning a language other than English. Their classes and activities were translated into English, but their day to day interaction with employees at the residence they stayed and with Cuban students from the University of Havana made them want to be able to communicate in Spanish. Jared pointed out that Americans have “a genuinely disinterest in learning another language, or their culture, or their people.” He admitted that even he had the same mentality of “why do I need to learn this? Am I going to be talking to the migrant workers in my city?” For him, Spanish within the bounds of the United States was associated with having a limited or working knowledge of being able to communicate with menial, immigrant laborers, and, therefore, he had no real reason to be able to speak it. But suddenly within a country in which Spanish was the major language, he had to step out of his superior-inferior conception of language: “When I went to Cuba I wanted to learn the language. I wanted to learn the culture.” Just as Spanish elicited images of servitude from these students, Cubans associated images of wealth with their American-ness, and specifically their whiteness. As Brian explained, “I don’t think it’s a matter or being white or American or whatever; it’s that you’re white and you have a lot of money.” While students realized the utility of learning a language other than English, their whiteness, and its association with money, still provided that they encountered the other from a dominant stance. And when students became interested in actually learning the language in the culture, Cuba went from a “lesser place” to just a “different place.” CIRCULATION OF THIS PAPER IS NOT PERMITTED WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE AUTHORS.

Authors: France, Hollis. and Rogers, Kaylee.
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France & Rogers 19
During their experiences abroad, these students also had to encounter a country in which
the major language was not English and the population was overwhelmingly what they
characterized as “non-white.” While the majority of students had completed the College of
Charleston’s requirements for “proficiency” of Spanish, it was not until their time abroad in
Cuba that they realized the importance of learning a language other than English. Their classes
and activities were translated into English, but their day to day interaction with employees at the
residence they stayed and with Cuban students from the University of Havana made them want
to be able to communicate in Spanish. Jared pointed out that Americans have “a genuinely
disinterest in learning another language, or their culture, or their people.” He admitted that even
he had the same mentality of “why do I need to learn this? Am I going to be talking to the
migrant workers in my city?” For him, Spanish within the bounds of the United States was
associated with having a limited or working knowledge of being able to communicate with
menial, immigrant laborers, and, therefore, he had no real reason to be able to speak it. But
suddenly within a country in which Spanish was the major language, he had to step out of his
superior-inferior conception of language: “When I went to Cuba I wanted to learn the language.
I wanted to learn the culture.” Just as Spanish elicited images of servitude from these students,
Cubans associated images of wealth with their American-ness, and specifically their whiteness.
As Brian explained, “I don’t think it’s a matter or being white or American or whatever; it’s that
you’re white and you have a lot of money.” While students realized the utility of learning a
language other than English, their whiteness, and its association with money, still provided that
they encountered the other from a dominant stance. And when students became interested in
actually learning the language in the culture, Cuba went from a “lesser place” to just a “different
place.”
CIRCULATION OF THIS PAPER IS NOT PERMITTED WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE AUTHORS.


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