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One of my goals for any new adventure I start is personal growth. Of course, this is in addition to experiencing the career/academic growth promised by the program. This is because, I am a firm believer that every new adventure is an opportunity for my personal growth because I still have a lot to learn. DukeEngage Miami, as I found out soon after I arrived in the city, is no exception. Earlier this week, only a few days after the beginning of the program,  I was quickly forced to leave my comfort zone. As scary as the moments leading up to the experience felt, I was surprisingly comfortable in the moment and following it.

When I found out I got into this program, I was excited that, among many other things, I would get an opportunity to practice my Spanish with native Spanish speakers. Even with the years of learning Spanish in the classroom, and a summer in Spain in an immersive language learning setting, I’m still nervous to use my Spanish in a new environment. I’m afraid of speaking and people not understanding anything I’m saying or people laughing or people being dismissive. I’m slowing realizing that the welcoming, and comfortable learning environment that I have grown accustomed before speaking isn’t going to be offered to me and I need to learn how to overcome my fear and speak.  This is why I was so grateful for my experience with an elderly Cuban man at the bus stop on my second day back from work.

A friend of mine who has lived her whole life in Miami told me that when I’m taking public transportation, I should always greet the elderly. I took her advice the second day when I said good afternoon to a Cuban grandfather in Spanish. He immediately started speaking to me in Spanish and we had a fairly long conversation. He didn’t know English so I had no escape, I had no choice but to use my Spanish that I had not been using in fear of making mistakes. He even complimented my Spanish, which made me smile. That short moment meant a lot to me and I am grateful for the experience. I left my comfort zone and took a chance that I didn’t think I was capable of doing. I am hopeful for the rest of my time here that I will continue to gain the confidence I need to overcome my fear of having a conversation in Spanish and my fear of being dismissed because of the mistakes I make in speaking.

For these remaining seven weeks I hope to personally grow as I have started this week and I hope to share my growth. I hope my newly gained confidence translates to my work and the people I interact with at work.


-Cassandra Appiah-Ofori