Student studying Chinese opts to go on annual school trip to Mexico

March 16, 2017 — by Patrick Li and Muthu Palaniappan

As sophomore Owen Keogh stepped off the airplane in Mexico City, he did not know what to expect. Keogh was among the 40 students who traveled to the country, yet he was the only one who didn’t know any Spanish.

Keogh currently takes in Chinese 3 and has never taken Spanish before. However, since sophomore Jules Ducrot-Huet needed a roommate to accompany him on the annual Cuernavaca trip, he invited Keogh to come along with him.

“Owen is probably my best friend so I knew it would be a great experience to travel to another country with him,” Ducrot-Huet said.

Keogh, however, speaks Italian fluently, which  made it easier for him to pick up Spanish during the trip, but there were still some struggles he faced. For instance, when Keogh was not with his roommate, he had lots of trouble communicating with his host parents, who only spoke in fluent Spanish. He recalls having to use Google Translate to express the simplest of phrases in order to get his point across.

Keogh also found going to the Bachillerato Internacional Uninter (BIU) school in Cuernavaca to be easier than living with his hosts. Since the students who regularly attended BIU knew how to speak English for the most part, it was easy for him to communicate with them.

Keogh was placed in a beginners class of Spanish at the school, after taking a placement test. This class helped him get a base understanding of the language.

“I definitely picked up more of the language as I spoke to the students at the school too,” he said. “The small conversations we had actually were super helpful in understanding Spanish as a whole.” Although everyone was generally really helpful, Ducrot-Huet helped Keogh the most with translations.

“Jules was really helpful throughout the entire trip, and I could depend on him to read me certain signs like in bathrooms or restaurants that I couldn’t understand,” said Keogh.

From the people he interacted with to the school he attended, Keogh certainly does not regret going to Mexico even though he was ill-prepared in speaking their language.

Keogh’s situation was not unique, however. Spanish teacher Arnaldo Rodriguex said that there have been several students who have traveled to Mexico with the school who have been in other language classes. He added that the trip is memorable for everyone and creating restrictions on who is allowed to go would be unfair.

“Traveling to new countries open doors,” Rodriguex said. “You gain a lot from eating the food, seeing the sights and experiencing the culture, and I don’t think Owen was an exception to this.”