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Alumni Spotlight

David Brady
Costa Rica Year 1990
English & Spanish Double Major

"After years of languishing in the classroom as a rather mediocre Spanish student, I learned that I actually had a knack for learning languages."

"I've come full circle and am teaching Spanish at the high school level...I can't think of a much more rewarding career than helping young people get excited about the greater world outside their local community, and how learning language and culture can make that world accessible to them."

"GO FOR IT! No matter what your concerns or reservations are, what you gain by your experience abroad will far outweigh any sacrifices you must make to get there."

Why did you choose your particular study abroad program/location?
My Spanish wasn't good enough to get into the Spain program, and I didn't want to breathe the air in Mexico City. The EAP center was opening a new program in Costa Rica, and basically was accepting anyone who applied. That's the only way I got in! 
 
What types of activities were you involved in while abroad that were meaningful for your learning?
The friendships I developed with my Costa Rican neighbors and classmates was by far the most rewarding aspect of my time in Costa Rica. Honestly, I don't remember much of what I learned in the formal classroom setting. But I'll never forget sitting in the doorway of my host family's home talking Central American politics with friends until the early morning hours. I got involved with a local church community and experienced a whole new cultural perspective on my religion. My host family took me in as one of their own, and though we've been out of touch for some time, I will never forget being part of that amazing family for a year. 
 
How have you changed or what have you learned due to studying abroad?
Prior to studying abroad, I viewed foreign language as a challenge to be conquered. I just wanted to become fluent, an utterly unattainable goal in the US. But after my year in Costa Rica, speaking Spanish became more than just something to check off my "bucket list". It became a door to experiencing new cultures, meeting new friends, understanding new perspectives and ways of viewing the world, tasting new foods, and discovering new places. After years of languishing in the classroom as a rather mediocre Spanish student, I learned that I actually had a knack for learning languages. I realized that language learning is ultimately a social activity, not an academic one.   
 
What are you doing now as a result of studying abroad?
After Costa Rica, I was motivated to learn more languages and cultures. I ended up in Kenya as a Christian missionary, where my wife and I spent the better part of ten years learning a local tribal dialect called ChiDuruma, as well as Swahili. Now that we're back in the US, I've come full circle and am teaching Spanish at the high school level. Though still somewhat frustrated by the academic approach we take to teaching foreign language in the country, I nevertheless try to instill my lessons with a heavy dose of social interaction and conversational practice. Having lived in two foreign countries and learned three languages as an adult, I'm able to draw on a wealth of personal experience to motivate my students to learn about language and culture. Two years ago I took a group of students to Costa Rica over spring break, where they took intensive language courses and explored the countryside. Several have expressed interest in continuing to study Spanish and want to study abroad. I can't think of a much more rewarding career than helping young people get excited about the greater world outside their local community, and how learning language and culture can make that world accessible to them. 
 
What advice would you give to a student considering studying abroad?
GO FOR IT! No matter what your concerns or reservations are, what you gain by your experience abroad will far outweigh any sacrifices you must make to get there. I have met many people who have been foreign exchange students. Not one has regretted the experience. Don't miss out on this life-changing experience. 

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