Seeds of International Love

Harvard’s love may not be as scandalous as Pitbull’s and Chris Brown’s love, but it definitely branches internationally.

I had a friend from back home who was admitted into Harvard College but was torn between another comparable (cough cough) university on the West Coast. She was interested in global health and political matters so my plan of attack was to emphasize Harvard’s presence on the global scale which a lot of domestically well known universities in the US lack.

One of the most influential factors that drove me to commit to Harvard was the fact that there are not only its graduate schools (and their resources!) nearby, but its resources range far and wide beyond national boundaries. It’s an understatement to say that I’ve been extremely lucky and blessed because I’ve benefited from both.

During term-time, I work as a paid research assistant at the Harvard Kennedy School Decision Science Laboratory. As for the majority of this summer, I’m currently participating in the DRCLAS: SIP (David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies: Summer Internship Program) in Peru. Allow me to backtrack to explain how I got myself in this delightful situation.

I started taking Spanish classes in 8th grade and completed all of my high school’s Spanish classes by the end of my junior year. I would have been able to take Spanish throughout my entire high school academic career, but I decided to skip a year and go into Advanced Placement (AP) Spanish Language as a high school junior. I didn’t really hesitate too much about this decision because with the advantage of growing up as a bilingual (Vietnamese and English) kid, Spanish had always come pretty easy for me.

However (cue horror music here), a burst of regret and tremendous trepidation overwhelmed me during my first week as a high school *junior (*edited 8 July 2012) when I couldn’t comprehend what was being said or anything I was reading in class. I admitted defeat after a short week and expressed my desires of transferring classes to my teacher who told me that the Spanish department extremely disliked students who went backwards due to all the trouble they go through to promote students forward. I didn’t know what to do – except to Google Translate everything in my workbook for hours each night.


The class, thankfully, got much easier after my diligence. In retrospect, I’m elated that I chickened out of chickening out!! AP Spanish – both the class and the exam structure – closely mirrors the Spanish Language and Literature classes that I have taken as an undergraduate student and undoubtedly prepared me well – but prepared me well in the classroom sense. Even after 4 more college semesters of intensive Spanish courses, I still struggle to completely understand Spanish and conjugate at a native speed…I’m working on it though!! The other day, I held a conversation with a taxi driver in Lima well enough that he believed I was from Mexico.

After so many years of Spanish classes, I became really frustrated about only seeing pictures of paella or gazpacho in textbooks and movies instead of actually seeing it in 3D for myself. Within the realm of science courses, I’m able to learn concepts and basically immediately apply them in lab that same week. However, Spanish started feeling like an abstract concept due to the fact that the language wasn’t applicable to my life outside of the narrow walls of the classroom. This frustration sparked my profound desires to study abroad during my college years because it’s an opportune time when you can drop all of your domestic responsibilities for new foreign ones!

My desires of studying abroad transformed into desires to work abroad – which I point out not to highlight how some of my desires may or may not be fickle, but rather to illuminate that changing your mind is perfectly acceptable. Harvard students are often epitomized as perfect students and although I don’t completely hate this reputation, it does indeed trigger tons and tons of pressure to feel like you always know what you’re doing to get to where you want. But as Natalie said in her post, indecision oftentimes unexpectedly leads you to where you want to be – and in my case, this was Peru!

After some online research, I quickly realized “studying” abroad wasn’t what I actually wanted to do. Whether the classroom was located in America or in a Spanish speaking country didn’t matter to me: I didn’t want to be in a classroom. I wanted to be spending all my time with locals and impressing myself by casually dropping the imperfect subjunctive whenever I could…go ahead and call me a nerd…my friends already do, haha

My obscure grammatical desires effortlessly intertwined with my premedically oriented personality and propelled me to apply to the DRCLAS SIP Peru Program to intern at a clinic. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the website because it’s pretty vague. Not to worry though – you can quench your curiosity with my next, ambitious post where I hope to summarize everything the DRCLAS kids here in Peru have done during the past 3-4 weeks!


**Sorry folks! I accidentally left this post as a draft without posting last week 🙁 Please factor in Peruvian time 😉 I’ve updated since then though so please forgive me!

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1 comment

  1. Scott Yim’s avatar

    I unfortunately didn’t get to go on the Groupon 4th of July cruise…I stayed home…yikes!

    Sounds like we’re both interning at a clinic (read the bottom of my last post!) and I’m excited to hear about your “next, ambitious post” haha…not sure if you’ll ever beat your last one though!

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