Immersion for the win

A broad awakening to the change Americans need


Hope Lynas, Staff Writer

Two countries, same language. Two different experiences, one similar conclusion. And a lot of homework for America. In the U.S.A., many find it difficult to be a good judge of the life they are choosing to live. They find it tough to make change where change needs to, or even wants to, be made.     

     The people of every country have problems. However, the problems of the average American may seem small to countries with higher poverty rates like Chile. Many Americans may have difficulty understanding the problems of people in this country if they’ve never left America.

     Over the past year, two students from Noblesville High School had the opportunity to partake in an Indiana University Honors Program of Foreign Languages, specifically in Spain and Chile. The following two students brought a lot more home than a higher level of Spanish fluency.

     “Interacting started with no interaction because I wasn’t allowed to speak English while I was there. That was one of the rules of the program,” NHS senior Devon Kauzlick said, “When you are there you have one hour of internet connection a week or you can type in English to people in the United States, but after that it’s nothing but Spanish.”

      Right off the bat, Kauzlick struggled with communication, as many students did. However, the language barrier he faced in Chile didn’t stop him from observing the lifestyle there.

     “Now I see that in the United States, we have a lot of things going on. But, it’s nothing like what’s going on in the outside world. We think that our education system is bad, their education system is practically non-existent. They have schools that the teachers build themselves, because they don’t have enough government funding,” Kauzlick said, “A living wage there, is that you can afford not to die. Where as here, a living wage is that you can buy not necessarily the newest iPhone, but you can afford to have nice things.”

     It was evident to Kauzlick that in America, people take what they have for granted. Realizing this, he decided to apply his observations to his life when coming home to Indiana.

     “I’d say that now I’m more focused on not whining about what I have. More focused on making sure that I have what I need. I’m more cautious about the things that I use, how much of something I use,” Kauzlick said, “Water is one of them, also gas because earthquakes are very common there so they don’t use gas nearly as much. Everything is gas-powered, but they still try to limit how much they use because the last thing that you want is an explosion down the street.”

     Kauzlick is hopeful that students will show interest in taking part on this journey themselves in the future. However, he stresses that it’s all up to them to make a change.

     “You get out of it what you put into it,” Kauzlick said. 

     On the flip side, Spain is a goregeous destination just screaming “the good life.” They also hold a large value on family, where in America hard work and long hours tend to be valued more. Another student from NHS had the opportunity to experience a life many desire, but sometimes never have.

     “It’s a lot more fast paced here, in America. Everything is slowed down in Spain. They all take a siesta, they have an hour and a half nap in the middle of the day, for fun. I mean, everything is more slow and it makes it easier to jump into the culture as well,” NHS Senior Lizi Strawn said.

     For Strawn, living in Spain seemed to be a breeze. While there, she realized how much more enjoyable life can be when you simply slow down.

     “It’s a lot easier to live that way. Everything is slow and in the middle of the day everything, all the shops close down and everyone is at their house, resting and eating lunch with their families. It’s a big, whole family community,” Strawn said. 

     Strawn says she came home with some lessons learned. She says she was able to grow more as an individual while in Spain.

     “I think I came back with a little more confidence. It’s really hard to be in a different country for 6 weeks. We didn’t have our phones, no connection really, one hour of internet time each week,” said Strawn, “You have to be really independent and motivated. The experience definitely helped me do that a lot more.”

     Spain taught her an important lesson about independence, but also gave Strawn clarity in what she wants her future to include.

     “It made me realize that I really want to travel. That’s something that I definitely want to pursue. In college, I want to study abroad for sure. It sparked a fire in me, I mean everybody says that, but it’s really true. Once you are there, you want to go back, it’s amazing,” Strawn said.

     Kauzlick and Strawn say they discovered what America was missing. Combined, they say their thoughts gave way to an understanding that U.S. citizens are worried about too much. They concluded that their home wasn’t getting the best reputation for way of life.

    “Stay focused on handling yourself, not as much the people around you,” Kauzlick said, “And that’s the thing to focus on, because if everybody takes care of themselves, we don’t have to worry about really anything.”