Senior Tests Spanish Skills Through Study Abroad in Mexico
When Randi Knox graduated from Bellevue East High School, she had a hunch that her college experience would likely include studying abroad.
She holds a special curiosity for the world around her and has an intense desire to make an impact.
Shortly after stepping foot on campus, the modern language and political science double major joined Global Service Learning, the country’s first student-led global service learning group.
"I wanted to get involved to learn about the needs of Lincoln and to put my energy into giving back," she said. "The greatest way that I have grown through GSL is in my appreciation for all that people do in this world, because there is a lot that needs done, most of which we don’t realize."
She volunteered for GSL’s local service projects and eventually joined the organization on an international trip to Thailand where she volunteered with the country’s Forest Research and Restoration Unit.
The experience fed her curiosity and passion for service. It also fed her desire to completely immerse herself in another country. It was time to experience one of the very reasons she chose Nebraska Wesleyan —to put her Spanish language skills to the test and study abroad in Mexico.
“I knew the most effective way to learn a language was to completely immerse myself in it,” she said.
"I attended an elementary school in Omaha where a majority of the students came from Spanish-speaking countries — many from Mexico,” she added. “And a lot of the neighbors on the block I grew up on are from Mexico. Studying in Mexico was more than studying a different culture and language, it was about gaining a better understanding of the culture and language that has always been a part of my life."
Through the Hattie Johns and Helen Fulton Endowed Scholarship and the Methodist International Student Exchange Network (MISEN), Knox was afforded the opportunity to indulge her curiosity and immerse herself in Mexico.
Despite some familiarity of Mexico, Knox admitted the transition to a new country was an adjustment. Her host family was quick to offer support.
"My host parents would start conversations with me when they noticed I was in these negative periods of cultural adjustment," she said. "They invited me to run errands and go to family gatherings with them, but my attendance was never obligatory."
Class attendance is another matter. Knox attended Universidad Madero (UMAD) where all of her classes were taught in Spanish. Keeping up with the language was of little worry to Knox. But cultural differences in instruction and study environments opened her eyes to new ways of studying.
Beyond the classroom, Knox was eager to continue her passion for service that she discovered through Global Service Learning. She landed a volunteer position at UMAD's Office of International Relations as an office assistant and translator.
"I have learned to roll with the given circumstances that life throws at me," said Knox. "I’m an eager learner, observing how people interact is one of my favorite pastimes so in my experiences abroad I feel that I learned a lot just through keeping flexible and observing.”
Knox will graduate from Nebraska Wesleyan in May, but first she’ll turn her attention to one more semester away with plans to participate in NWU’s Capitol Hill Internship Program next spring.
"I feel like a new person after living in Mexico," she reflected. "There is not a single part of my experience that I left behind."
Story by Quinn Hullett, public relations intern.