Owen Skonecki visited Uruguay in 2013-2014. In an interview on August 4, 2014 Owen talks about the importance of language preparation, his appreciation for AFS volunteers and related a funny story on mixing up words in conversation.
Let's start with who you are, where you are from, what high school you wen't to and what country or city that you visited.
I am Owen Skonecki, I am from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, I go to Red Land High School, I'm seventeen years old. I just got back from a trip to Uruguay. I had a great experience.
What language to the speak in Uruguay, and did you have experience with that language prior?
In Uruguay, they speak Spanish. Not the exact same Spanish as Spain or Mexico, different dialects, the basics and the grammar is the same. In high school, I studied Spanish for about three years, so I had some decent practice and basic knowledge of the language, which helped a lot. I definitely recommend that future students to do as much as they can to learn the language, it makes the trip a lot easier in the first few months, because otherwise in that first few months... your not understanding much, and it's tough. I'm pretty fluent by now.
Who did you meet in your host country who had the biggest impact on your experience there, or are there many other people you keep in touch with since you've been back?
Some of the AFS volunteers in Uruguay, they had a big impact on me, they are just really good people. They spend a lot of their time because they love seeing kids having a great experience and doing this kind of stuff. So it was good to see them, made me think about being a volunteer and doing some of that stuff.
Do you see this affecting your college plans and how that might affect how someone might see your college application?
Yeah, I definitely see it affecting my college application. I think it will make it easier for me as an applicant to be accepted into a college and I think it will make the college experience easier for me... You don't just learn about the language and the culture, you learn a lot more about yourself. So I got a lot more patience and to be more independent, and I think that is going to help a lot. After living for a year in a foreign country, with strangers and a host family that I never met, I think it will make the college experience a lot easier. I think it will help a lot.
Do you have a story that you would like to tell about your experience there, something that is funny, something that you reflect back on being back from there. Something that you think sums up your experience, or just something you want to share from there?
I don't know, just some funny stuff with the language, in getting words mixed up. One time I was talking to a friend of mine in Uruguay and that I live in the kind of more the suburbs and the country instead of in the city, like I did in Uruguay. I was explaining to him that I have a bow and arrow, and I like to shoot my bow and arrow and I hunt sometimes. So I was telling the story that I was trying to shoot and that I hunt deer in my back yard. But, the word for “deer” and “blind person” in Spanish are very similar. So as I am telling this story I mix up the word for “deer” and “blind person.” I explained to him that I was “shooting blind people in my backyard.” I think it was funny, and then I learned the word for “deer” after that.
What advice do you give to students just starting out on their experience, what would you tell them?
I would say, “make the most out of every second you have there, because the time goes quick.” When you look back, you want to have those memories that you actually went out and hung out with your friends, not of staying at home and being homesick instead of having a good time.