Yanna Muriel '05

Yanna MurielWe speak about having culture shock while traveling abroad, but I think that comes from not fully interacting with communities. As I walked into the local middle school and on the Bowdoin campus for the first time, I felt culture shocked. I found that in public schools here, children are limited in different ways than the children I was used to working with in Latin America or when I was a student in Puerto Rico, my home country. Looking back at this moment I realize that everything was anticipated in my mind, I automatically convinced myself that I was different from everyone in the U.S. I think this is a mentality that can be traced to the attitudes of the nationalists' ideology in Puerto Rico who try to find reasons to distinguish Puerto Rico from the mainland so we can resist the idea of becoming the fifty-first state of the U.S.

I learned to adjust my preconceived standpoints during the process of majoring in Latin American Studies and Spanish. But most of my self reflection and growth came from my minor in Education. I would like to continue to work in this field as I have before I came to Bowdoin, although I am better prepared now to understand how students are shaped by their formal schooling. I am closer to being a teacher because I have strong viewpoints on educational issues, such as standardized testing, tracking, social mobility, etc. I am also developing a teaching style and philosophy that I always try to improve. Something that became important for me to realize is learning that we all have something to add. Sometimes we hear praises given to Bowdoin for all that we have learned; this is true for me as well, except that I have also neglected some things by being here. I almost forgot how to speak to local farmers of my hometown, identify constellations and medicinal wild plants. I think it is important to help students value what they already know how to do, such as imagining, storytelling and inquiring. Furthermore creating a community where learners become teachers and teachers become learners is important for instilling respect, solidarity, and enduring understandings. Cultural shocks are no longer shocking once we learn to approach each other with the disposition of being equal.