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Study Abroad Blog

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Active Learning: Living it is Learning it

What is Active Learning?
We've all been there; sitting in the class room, trying to keep our eyes open as we’re slowly lulled to sleep by lecture.  In school, we learn how to divide, add, subtract, and the like, but it’s not until we have to use them outside the classroom that we realize how valuable those skills are.  The same goes for any other fact or skill that we learn in school. It never becomes really valuable for us until we have to use it.
Active learning to me means exactly that; continuing education outside the classroom.  I've always had a passion for Spanish. To me, it seemed like a practical skill, and languages have always fascinated me.  There were the occasions I would use it to communicate with Hispanic employees when I worked in the fast food business, but it still felt as if I wasn't achieving the fullest potential with my knowledge. Spanish was something to be memorized, and then written onto a test. I didn't use it on a daily basis to communicate with people. 
Everything changed when I arrived in Spain. Here I am surrounded by it. Without my knowledge of Spanish, I could hardly get by. Here, active learning truly takes place. I am no longer sitting at my desk memorizing terms on note cards late at night, but conversing at the dinner table with my host family.  I’m using my Spanish to order food, to buy my things, to meet and talk to friends, to comprehend the world that I live in.
To be able to actually use my knowledge of Spanish to get by is incredibly special, and is an opportunity I think that everyone should be able to take. You never really appreciate the language until you are surrounded by it.
After Spanish class, you can always return to your English speaking friends in your English speaking town and get along just well without ever having to know even a word of Spanish.  It’s so easy for the language to fall to the back of your mind, and after a while, it loses its spark or its importance in your life.
However, when you’re involved in active learning; when you have to use it to get by, use it as common knowledge, that is the moment where you find yourself learning more than you ever have before.  In that moment, you are surrounded by a community and a culture that leaves a lasting memory and a new wealth of knowledge. 
Jace Waller, a senior at Illinois State University, is the CEA Fall 2012 MOJO for Granada, Spain

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