COLUMN: Dancing and coffee and Spanish, oh my!


A few weeks ago, I decided that would be my mantra for the semester.

Scene 1: Flashback to last weekend, when I attended a salsa/bachata dance class. This will be easy, I thought. I love dancing. I dance three times a week at school. I’m usually the one who hits the dance floor first when my friends and I go out.

Piece of cake.

Well friends, my hip-hop moves and cutesy musical theater numbers did not exactly fare well for me in this instance. I went to said class with a new Spanish friend, so I felt a little more comfortable I would have a partner I knew to dance with.

The first two minutes were fine, and then — “Cambia!”

What I failed to realize was that every minute or so, you switch partners while you’re learning.  Trying to learn a new dance while speaking Spanish with people I don’t know quickly turned my face red. Not to mention the instructor continually called me up to use me as an example.  “Smile and wave, Lauren, smile and wave,” I thought.

While my nerves remained for the first half of the class, by the end I was able to relax a little. And hey, I actually got the routine down and enjoyed myself quite a bit.

Scene 2: A first encounter with a new person is a little nerve-wracking in itself. Throw the element of a language barrier in there, and you have no idea what to expect. Last week, I had coffee with a new friend of mine.

Upon arriving at Starbucks (going to an American coffee shop was not my suggestion, I promise), I couldn’t hear very well amidst the music and chatter. When I asked the cashier to repeat what he said, he responded,“Do you speak English?”

He knew.

“ ... Yes.”

Great. Thirty seconds in and I’ve already clearly identified myself as a foreigner. As I walked over to the table with my coffee, I was trying to think about the next few things I was going to say in order to speed up the pace of my Spanish.

Alas, my broken Spanish was evident, and I had to be OK with it. My friend showed patience and even spoke a little bit of English for me, which put me at ease.

In each of these instances, I was initially a little apprehensive. In the presence of new situations, we all have those moments of doubt. Maybe it goes well, maybe it doesn’t. But you’ll probably never say, “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t try that.”

Whether it’s trying a new activity on campus, finally asking out that cute guy or girl in your class, or getting in the car and driving until you find a new place to discover, do it. If it scares you a little bit, do it.

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