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On Accents and Speaking a Foreign Language

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Have you ever felt frustrated when nobody understood you or slightly annoyed when someone made fun of you because of your accent? I have seen that frustration among my international friends. Sometimes I experience it with refugee clients of mine in my current social work internship. And yes, I have been there myself as a foreign student. Not only are we asked to adapt to a different culture and academic system, we have to master our conversing in a foreign language in a way that people understand us. My self-consciousness about my accent and way of speaking got me to the point that I would fear doing presentations in front of the class.

How did I overcome that anxiety? For one, I often asked myself why there should be a subtle emphasis on conforming to one unique way of pronouncing and speaking in a foreign language. Wouldn't it actually be boring if we as international students all spoke the same way in a foreign language? Instead we should embrace our way of speaking because our accent and culture make us who we are. Why should we deny something that is part of us and makes us unique?
To give you a personal example, it was a running gag among my best American friends for some time I that I couldn't pronounce the word squirrel. My friends helped me realize that I shouldn't take the pronunciation matter so seriously and instead take it with a sense of humor. Eventually, I laughed with my friends whenever they were amused about my accent because my pronunciation mishaps made them happy. After all, I was there to learn a new language and making mistakes during the learning process is normal. Moreover, learning and speaking a foreign language should be fun and never a chore.

I also realized that in the end I shouldn't focus so much on my accent, but on the overall message I want to get across in my communication. This important point is best summarized in an essay by Chinua Achebe about African authors writing in a foreign language: "So my answer to the question: Can an African ever learn English well enough to be able to use it effectively in creative writing? is certainly yes. If on the other hand you ask: Can he ever learn to use it like a native speaker? I should say, I hope not. It is neither necessary nor desirable for him to do so. The price a world language must be prepared to pay is submission to many different kinds of use. The African writer should aim to use English in a way that brings out his message best without altering the language to the extent that its value as medium of international exchange will be lost. He should aim at fashioning out an English which is at once universal and able to carry his peculiar experience." Consequently, always keep in mind that there is diversity in the English language of how you can communicate and express yourself.

Now I am not saying that we as international students shouldn't improve our English proficiency or if we want to work on our public speaking skills, by all means, we should all go ahead and seek out opportunities to do so. I remember an important lesson from a French teacher at my German high school that one of the key parts about learning a new language successfully is the courage to speak and practice it with others in public. We have a great German saying for that: "Uebung macht den Meister (A master arrives where he is at through exercise)."

But if you are still in doubt about yourself and your way of speaking, then please stop for a moment and give yourself a pat on the back. We all need to remind ourselves that we are making an effort in speaking another person's language in order to communicate with them. It says a lot about us that we are putting a lot of work into learning other people's languages and cultures, it reveals that we care deeply about communicating with the people in the host country and that we respect their language and culture. So...never forget this.

This is all from me today. Embrace the opportunity to learn and converse in a new language, make it a fun experience and laugh about your mistakes because they make you human. Also, please do me a favor and check out the following clip, you may or may not have walked in this guy's shoes before. Bis demnaechst und haltet die Ohren steif, my friends.

Dedicated to Dr. J., all of my international friends and all international students

Holidays / Diciembre , 2012

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Hola a todos!

I have to admit that I had the greatest Christmas Day and New Year's Eve in the U.S. so far. I spent time with new people who made me feel special and loved. Even if I felt the absence of my family, I realized that I have certain people that I can consider an important part of my life right now. Ok, I'll stop being sentimental and I'll talk a little bit of what colombians do and what americans do for x-mas.

Americans don't celebrate Christmas like Colombians do; however, it is exceptional to experience unusual feelings and festivities in a different country. The biggest difference is that New Year's Eve is celebrated with our family. We get together and have dinner, and we'll probably dance a huge repertoire of songs depending on the region you live in.

If you're from the Atlantic Coast you might dance Vallenatos, if you live in Cali (where I was living before I came here) you might dance Salsa and Merengue and so on. You'll finally end up singing "Faltan cinco pa' las doce, 
el año va a terminar, 
me voy corriendo a mi casa 
a abrazar a mi mamá...", something close to "It's five to twelve, the year will end. I'm running to my house to hug my mother ... ". In the U.S. this day is the night where you get together with your friends and have fun. It is also a day where you get together with your significant other. Going back to Christmas day I can say that we celebrate almost the same way, with the difference that we don't give seven or eight presents. We just exchange two or maybe three.Other than that it is the same ritual. I can keep talking about our differences, but It is better to mention the good things I did. I also read that blogging is dying and writing too much is boring, so...

...I'll show you the most special moments through some photographs:

Hayward, WI

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Danny, Kay and I made a special Colombian Chicken Rice


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My view was full of snow and silenced sounds!

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I also went to La Jolla, CA where I had time to do Yoga with the Kay, who is as calm as the sea. I hiked by the ocean. I also had time to think about what is coming up: M.A. Written and Oral Exams

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Chao, I hope this year continue being as great as last one!!!

Unique Places in Minneapolis

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Hola a todos! We have been talking about things regarding to the U of M. This time I will introduce you with some of my favorite spots in Minneapolis and some info that could be helpful. Since winter is coming and my mood is shifting with the rhythm of the cold, I decided to remember all the places I find unique here. When you have time, you should definitely check them out.

1. If you are in the mood for a cultural vibe, go to Walker Art Center: This museum located on Hennepin Avenue is one of the most important cultural attractions in Minneapolis. The architecture is exceptional. If you go on Thursday you can get in for free. Here's the link http://www.walkerart.org/

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2. If you want to read, or grade surrounded by different kind of people you should go a coffee shop located in Uptown called 'Spyhouse'. You will find independent music, a tasty coffee, mocha, latte and so on. At the same time you'll see a lot of students doing the same thing like you do, so you will feel related, connected, linked, associated to them. If you want more information here's the link http://spyhousecoffee.com/


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3. One expensive but interesting place in Minneapolis is Guthrie Theater if you want to see a play that you'll remember for a long time. This place will let you see the Mississippi river from an exceptional yellow lens. The performances at the Guthrie are qualified and outstanding. Save some of your money and go to check one of their productions once in a while. I just got a Facebook comment from a college who literally says that Guthrie has student discounts and/or rush tickets (cheaper tickets, if you get them a few hours before a performance). Find out http://www.guthrietheater.org/


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4. If you want to go to a 'college' pseudo-cultural club you can go to Kitty Cat Klub, which is a place really close to the U. You will see local bands and you can try decent drinks. The decoration of the place is attractive. You can give it a try on Fridays after class to relax your busy mind. Website http://www.kittycatklub.net/


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Enjoy and let me know what do you think. Hasta la próxima!

College is not always about attending lectures, sitting in class, doing your homework or assignments and getting good grades. College is the time when you can do other neat and cool stuff like join student groups, participate in projects and join competitions which is what I am doing now. At the end of last spring my classmate asked if I wanted to join a student group called Tesla Works and without hesitation I said yes.

Tesla Works is a project based student group and is a diverse group of people from different educational backgrounds: physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, architecture, aerospace engineering, design, chemical engineering and a lot more. This group of diverse students work on different projects that stimulates creativity and innovation.

I am currently working on a project called the Barbershop Quartet, which is a four animatronic bust figure of President Kaler that sings like a quartet. I chose to join this project because I would like to learn more about how animatronics work and get involved in sculpting the busts (which is fun for me since I am into arts and craft). Projects such as this, where interactions and convergence of different disciplines is what I am interested in and is always a good place to learn more about other things aside from you major and get hands on experience.

Personally, I think getting involved in activities such as this is really important if you are an international student. One of my purpose of studying here is to get to know more American students and learn how to socialize with them. If you are studying in abroad you might as well dive in to the culture and mingle with the locals. This way it will broaden your mind and will definitely change your perspective of the American stereotype. So for you new international students out there, I encourage you to get involved in student groups and other form of campus organizations as soon as possible! Arya out!

My supporting systems & its event 'ThaiNight'

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One of the new things that I have found out while studying in the US is that people like to build their own New Year resolution. And according to my resolution this year, not only that I has joined the International Student Ambassador group (ISA) but has also joined the staff of the Thai Student Association (ThaiSA.) As each country has its own supporting system available, at the university of Minnesota ThaiSA is the group I has discovered this year. Apart from that ,Thai Association of Minnesota (ThaiAM) is also available for me. Their collaboration has brought an event called "ThaiNight." It was happened on the last Saturday November 10 to gather good wills from people in the Minnesota to people of Thailand who are victims by the current flood disaster.

ThaiSA, ThaiAM, and ThaiNight: these are what I would like to share with you today:


-1- ThaiSA: Thai Student Association of Minnesota

Active webboard: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ThaiSAofMN/
ThaiSA is a student group that envisions bonding a stronger networking among Thai students of university of Minnesota, alumnus, and people who comes to work around the Twin Cities. ThaiSA also focus its activities that aim to help new Thai international students settling their study life.

Each year the activities include
- Welcome night event in the Fall
- ThaiSA talk throughout the year
- Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year gathering and potluck
- ThaiNight, an biggest annual event in collaboration with ThaiAM

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ThaiSA staff meeting, always paired with the great cooking of our ThaiSA president Ponnawat Otwong, a U of M engineering student.

-2- ThaiAM: Thai Association of Minnesota
Website: http://www.thaiofmn.org
Active webboard: https://www.facebook.com/groups/242150902471766/

ThaiAM is broader in term of its members, which are mainly Thais who have relocated permanently in Minnesota. Their main events include:
- Thai picnic, an annual event in August
- ThaiNight, an annual event in collaboration with ThaiSA


-3- ThaiNight
As I have mentioned, ThaiNight is the biggest annual event in collaboration between ThaiSA and ThaiAM. This year is actually different since its goal is not only to have a good time but also to raise the donation to send back to help the victims of the current flood in Thailand. They have sold out their tickets; along with the tickets sales, there are additional activities including the silent auction and additional donation. At the end of the night they have raised about $17,500 in this fund-raising event.

Please check out the news about this event the the Star Tribune local newspaper: http://www.startribune.com/local/133403223.html


And here is the scene of the event:

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at the ThaiNight event's entrance


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The line of Thai Food!!! sponsored by over 20 thai restaurants around the Twin Cities


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Entertaining: Thai Dancing


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Off course, I am a part of the event by giving some piano performance of thai songs with ThaiSA president joining me by singing


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More performance by ThaiAM and lots of kids

-4- Becoming the supporting system

You know what, it feel great! when you are a part of something, especially a part of the community. Therefore and lastly, if you are becoming part of the U of M, do not forget to include these in your coursework:

-Join a student group
-Learn to be a part of your community
-Give the community what you have
-Do good deed to others
-Make new friends
-Expanding your networking

And at the end of the day, you might feel the tiredness BUT you also will be able to reflect back about yourself what you have grown for yourself.. each day.

See you soon, Sawaddee ka (greeting in Thai)
::Banchinda::

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Photos by
Borwornsom Leerapan
Parichart Wallen
Ani Chen

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Calling all students! We want to tell you about an exciting opportunity to explore more of Minnesota. Do camping, canoeing, campfires under the stars, making great new friends, and going to see new places sound fun to you? If so, ISSS invites you to join our Wilderness Week program to northern Minnesota.

Dates are August 18-22, 2011. This will be a great chance to meet students from all over the world. All international and US students (new and returning) are eligible. This is your chance to try (or try again) canoeing, hiking and camping in Minnesota! Enjoy campfires, stories, and time to meet new friends before the semester begins.

The cost of the trip is $395.00 per person. This price includes transportation, meals, group equipment, and guides.

For information email isssww@umn.edu, visit http://isss.umn.edu/programs/wildernessweek/ or call 612-626-7100.

Don't delay and miss your chance! When we talk with graduating students about what they wish they had done while at the U, exploring other areas of Minnesota and especially nature are top on the list.

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Goodbye and stay in touch!

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Hi all,
Today I am very sad that I write my last entry of the year as a Graduate International Student Ambassador! It has been a pleasure to share with you my experience as a graduate student at the U of M. I hope my blog has been helpful and resourceful as you make your own transition to graduate school or as you are thinking about it! I am more than happy to answer any further questions you may have about life as a graduate student in the United States or graduate programs at the School of Public Health. Next week is a busy one for me as I wrap up the spring semester. I have papers to hand in and final exams to prepare for. I am looking forward to the graduation ceremony in about two weeks, where together with fellow graduate students, I will celebrate the completion of my graduate studies at the U. I am confident you are well on your way to a bright graduate study career and a very successful adjustment in the United States!
xoxo

Homesick? No, I have USsick!

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Spring has come here in Minnesota!

I am happy and excited but simultaneously have complicated feeling, because Spring means it's almost the time to leave here for me. I will miss my life in the University of Minnesota...

1 year and 8 months passed unbelievably quickly, and I have only several months to stay here. I had not thought that, but actually I feel, "I don't want to go back to Japan yet!"

Wait, I still love Japan. But I have too many reasons that try not to let me go .


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Be happy for this moment

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...this moment is your life.

Spring is in the air - and so is exam week. With mounting pressure from impending exams, with essays to write and projects to polish, with analyses to run and talks to present, how do we stay happy?

It's Spring Break!

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Hi all,
Thanks for coming back to my blog this week:-) It's spring break and I am enjoying it in New York! I am very excited to take a break from classes and my busy work schedule. That does not mean I am not using the time to also catch up on school projects. However, I am spending the most of my spring break catching on sleep and having fun. At the U of M a number of graduate students take time off from school during breaks and holidays such as this to rejuvenate after the busy first half of the semester.
I go back to Minnesota next week to start the last half of my spring semester. I am sure I will be rejuvenated and ready for it! I am sure you are also getting ready to make your final decision on the graduate programs to attend next Fall. Choose the University of Minnesota for a fulfilling and exciting graduate school experience and remember to have fun while you are at it like I am! Spring Break NY 2011 036.JPG

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Friendship/Social life category.

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