GCC travel award immerses Dori Nadlony in a new world

September 25, 2009

When Dori Nadolny’s GCC Spanish instructor, Amanda Damon, suggested Dori apply for one of the College’s Student International Travel Awards, Dori thought such travel was for younger students, not for a 42-year-old LPN taking prerequisites for GCC’s RN program.

GCC student Dori Nadolny in Guatemala

Dori had enjoyed GCC’s Spanish for Health Professionals course taught by Charlotte Gifford, wanted to learn more, and was enrolled in Amanda’s Spanish 101 course. Amanda told Dori a travel award, funded by the Student Senate and President Pura, could help her study Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country. The awards are geared toward students who would like to study abroad, but whose busy lives don’t allow them to be away from home for a full semester or year.

Amanda’s encouragement worked. Dori wrote the application essays, was interviewed by the selection committee, and, last spring, was granted the $1,800 award. Then she needed to figure out how to use it. Dori worked with Charlotte, GCC’s Chair of World Languages, to find a program that combined language study, a home stay, and opportunity to travel in the country she was visiting. She considered programs in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador, and chose Tecun Uman in Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala. This past summer, Dori spent four weeks immersed in the Spanish language and Guatemalan culture and fell in love with it all – the culture, the people she met, the cities, and countryside.

What does “immersion” mean? For Dori, it meant living with a family where Spanish was spoken most of the time, navigating around the city, spending five hours a day, five days a week in one-on-one instruction with her teacher, Juan Luis Estrada Orizabal, and exploring Guatemala on weekend trips. Dori had never been outside the U.S., and, at first was nervous, wondering how she would manage. Starting with day one, she was out exploring the city on her own with map in hand. She felt absolutely safe, and the people she met were friendly, excited that she was trying to learn Spanish, and very willing to help her. Her homestay family included four generations – Lorena Lopez and her mother Lea, daughter Ana Louisa, and grandson, Nicholas. Dori was surprised they knew as much English as they did. Lorena and her family were as eager to practice their English skills with Dori as she was to practice her Spanish skills with them.

Along with providing language instruction during the week, Tecun Uman helped Dori find trips to other parts of Guatemala. She went to Monterrico, a town on the Pacific coast, Semuc Champay, in the jungle, and visited Lake Atitlan in the town of Panajachel. When not traveling or studying, Dori also volunteered at Mi Angel Guardian, an after-school program for kids.

Back in classes at GCC and at work in New Hampshire, Dori has had time to reflect on her experiences in Guatemala. She said, “I am so glad I took the chance and did it all. I would not have done it unless I was pushed. I am so grateful. It was an awesome experience that has inspired me to travel more, continue studying Spanish, and work toward my RN. I think with Spanish language skills and an RN, my options will be limitless.”

To learn more about the College’s Student International Travel Awards, contact Charlotte Gifford at (413) 775-1227 or gifford@gcc.mass.edu.

Dori Nadolny’s Guatemala photos

By Mary McClintock ’82