Summer Vacation in the USA

Celebrating a late fourth of July with family at a lake in Arkansas.

After a summer vacation in the USA, I reconnected with my cultural roots and identity.  Here are three realizations that I had: 

  1. Immersion is the best way to learn a language

Our first meal back in Iowa: Corn on the cob, greens, and cornbread.

Firstly, immersion is still the best way to learn a language. My 4-year-old son, who primarily speaks Galician, began speaking 100% English after the second week in the States.  Now, he feels more comfortable talking to me in English, which I ADORE! His intonation still mimics Galician and people commented that he spoke English with an Italian accent, but I was impressed that he could communicate, understand, and be understood.  What does this mean for you? Now, that travel is becoming easier, consider doing a study abroad and improving your English at my alma mater, the University of Iowa. 

My son discovers what book interests him most in the mini-library.

Also, an inspiring educator and a future podcast guest, Ivan Crespo is a graduate student in linguistics at the University of Illinois and raves about the English Language Institute, where he teaches immersion English courses.  I usually encourage students to study in the Midwest because they will learn English more quickly. If you need help with your TOEFL prep to get into the university of your dreams, check out my latest offer.  Honestly, fewer people in the Midwest speak Spanish or Portuguese, so you’ll be forced to use English as much as possible.  If you go to California, Florida, or New York City, you’re more likely to find people who speak your language and you might not make as much progress.  In addition, people are exceedingly friendly.  Every day, people greeted us on the street, smiled at us, and started some small talk. The midwestern hospitality made me feel welcome and at home.

2. American Neighborhoods are Charming

Secondly, my mother’s neighborhood in Iowa City had these adorable book boxes to exchange reading material with neighbors.  You put a book in and take a book if you find it to be interesting. When I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, these mini-libraries peppered the neighborhoods as well. What a fabulous way to circulate literature in the community and stimulate learning! We got a book from the library box about a female oceanographer for my son, which he asks me to read to him every night. What does this mean for you? Set up a book exchange in your language meet-up and trade good novels in English.  Join a book club.  In sum, charming neighborhoods in university towns offer cultural and linguistic opportunities for career and personal growth in the USA.  

3. The University Atmosphere is Hip

A lecture hall in the Anthropology Department at the University of Iowa

Thirdly, the university atmosphere in the USA is vibrant and stimulating.  After visiting the University of Iowa, I enjoyed the college atmosphere again and was overcome with emotion. Students sported Hawkeye T-shirts and baseball caps and showed team spirit.  The Anthropology department brought back fabulous memories of large lecture halls and thought-provoking professors.  The campus spirit in the USA is truly invigorating.  

All in all, our vacation in the USA was lovely.  We spent over 50% of our time driving around since each of my family members lives very far from one another.   My father lives in New Mexico, my sister lives in California, my brother lives in Iowa, my other sister lives in Arkansas, and my best friend lives in Maine.  Because Americans spend so much time in their cars, there is a culture surrounding cars that can’t be ignored: VIP car washes, heated seats, automatic trunks, and high-powered sprayers in garages.

Guns were prohibited in this restaurant in rural Iowa.

Some shocking things in the USA:

  1. On our drive to Missouri, we did see gun advertisements on billboards. Also, guns were available to buy at the local hardware store for $200 and there were artillery rifles available for sale.🔫
  2. Since the health care system is privatized, there were more advertisements for competing hospitals.🏥
  3. Deer circulated my mom’s neighborhood in Iowa City and were as prolific as squirrels. 🦌
  4. The air conditioning was turned on in every shop and restaurant and home. I lost my voice on the first day and was hoarse most of the trip from the extreme temperature changes inside and outside.🥶
  5. People were eating more jalapeños. There were jalapeño hamburgers and jalapeño cocktails. Delicious!🌶
  6. Food prices have skyrocketed and fruit and fresh food is very expensive. ($8 for a watermelon and $2 for one apple).🍎💰
  7. Tipping 15% or 20% is now given as an option when you order food at the counter.💁‍♀️
  8. Seltzer water now comes in more options: with caffeine or alcohol…you must carefully read the label.💦