Editor’s note: This is part one of a three part series in which Bruin contributors Sydney Walls and Laurel Scott follow two international students through the Dashew Center’s quarter-long Language Exchange Program.
Bruin: Maurice Maurer, a first-year graduate student in physics and Luis Rodriguez Quintero, a third-year chemical engineering student, have started the process of learning each other’s languages.
Through the stress of dealing with midterms they still manage to find time to practice the languages. Maurer has had an easier time with his language because of his past experiences with Spanish. He previously studied Spanish for three years in high school and one year in university.
German is Quintero’s fourth language and he is just starting out. All those languages in your head can sometimes mash together.
Quintero: Bonjour..oh I mean…
For me it is good to learn a new language, but it is difficult because I am just getting started here at UCLA.
Bruin: Through the Dashew Language Exchange program, Maurer and Quintero have started to speak in each other’s language. They both have experience learning new languages and know how difficult it can be. Sometimes, they take the easy way out by speaking English.
Maurer: We’re supposed to speak in Spanish and German all the time, but most the time we speak in English cause it’s just easier.
Bruin: By bending the rules and speaking in English they have been able to learn about each other’s cultures and they have found a common interest in sports and beer. Which goes to show, across cultures, men like their beer and they like their sports.
Maurer: Good thing is you can buy German beer here. It’s just more expensive.
Bruin: American beer may be inferior to the Germans’, but when it comes to weather we have them beat.
Maurer: The weather here is way better right now in the winter time. I don’t really miss anything.
Bruin: But it hasn’t been all fun and games. Maurer and Quintero have also found common experiences in the difficulties they have faced as international students.
Most of us don’t think of the difficulties that come with being an international student, but Maurer and Quintero have experienced it firsthand with paperwork, finding a place to stay and getting adjusted to life in America.
Maurer: The first one to two months is filling out forms, getting all the bureaucracy out of the way. Applying for all the tax stuff, social security number, bank account and all that stuff.
Bruin: Many things in America are taken advantage of, and for international students, life here can be more complicated than many think. Because America is big on liability and suing, it makes it hard for people not from America to get anything done without signing a bunch of forms.
Getting anything done here takes time, and when you’re only here for a few months, time can be precious.
Maurer: I tried to get into the table tennis club, but it’s all so very complicating here to do any sports wise things because of liability and suing.
Bruin: Finding a place off campus to live is a hassle for anyone, between the cramped rooms and high Los Angeles rent, but try finding a good apartment when you are living thousands of miles away and can only rely on things like Craigslist, like Maurer.
Maurer: Looking for apartments is always hard, but when you’re in a different country things are little different. If you apply for dorms as an international student you have to first get here and then you can apply, but it’s already too late cause you have to sleep somewhere.
Bruin: Despite a few bumps along the way, both have started to adjust and are now making a life for themselves in Los Angeles.
Quintero: I want to work 14 hours a week, so I sent my job application to Taco Bell. I am also enrolled with the Arrow rowing group, it’s cool.
Bruin: When asked what they miss most about home their reply was immediate and the same,
Quintero: I miss the food.
Maurer: I wanted to say the same thing.
Quintero: And the beer.
Bruin: Throughout the quarter the pairs in the language exchange program have the opportunity to get to know each other better. Dashew hosts events throughout the quarter to help international students feel connected with a community here on campus.
Being away from your family can be hard and finding support in Dashew can help students to feel more at home. Quintero and Maurer have both attended other Dashew events.
Maurer: I went to the thanksgiving dinner.
Quintero: I went to a pizza party, but I arrived forty minutes late and didn’t get pizza.
Bruin: Unfortunately for Quintero, Dashew doesn’t believe in being fashionably late.
Maurer and Quintero will continue to learn their languages throughout the quarter.
Jennie Weingarten, assistant director to programs at Dashew, has said that many pairs develop close friendships. In the future, we just might see Quintero and Maurer speaking together in fluent Spanish while enjoying German beer.
For Daily Bruin Radio, I’m Sydney Walls.
And I’m Laurel Scott.