I attended LITA the summer of 2013, and I can say with absolute certainty that my decision to attend is, without a doubt, the most impactful experience I’ve ever partaken in. I’m from Los Angeles, CA, and yet despite Los Angeles’ large Hispanic population, prior to LITA, I did not have a passion for Spanish, and was consequently struggling to get by in my high school Spanish classes. Attending LITA, I was given a cultural worldview and a passion for Spanish and Spain that I still hold to this day. This is what led me to pursue a degree from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, where I am currently a sophomore.
This may come as a shock given how far my University is from my hometown of Los Angeles, but when I was younger, I had a bad experience attending a summer program, and suffered from homesickness. For a long time, I thought a summer program on another continent would never be something I would be interested in; I wanted to stay close to home—to have ready and constant access to what’s ‘familiar’. I decided to step out of my comfort zone & applied to LITA because it gave me both the opportunity to intern in a Spanish restaurant (kitchen) and to hone my Spanish skills. LITA was the most incredible experience I’ve ever been fortunate enough to participate in; it taught me that in order to fully experience the opportunities you’re presented in life, you have to be comfortable and confident enough to step out of your comfort zone.
In high school, the focus is to get into a good college, which is done through high-level academic achievement and by differentiating yourself from the competition. However, what high school doesn’t prepare you for is your first few months of college. Much like one's freshman year in college, an immersion program removes you from your comfort zone. The difference is that an immersion program is far more temporary than a college career. Practicing pushing through the discomfort prior to attending college is monumentally important to one’s academic and social success.
Jordan Romm, the head of the LITA program, makes a strong effort to compile a group of students that bond with each other, and to pair students with host families that they will stay in contact with for the rest of their lives. I am still in constant contact with my host family from what is quickly approaching 4 years ago, and have had the good fortune of visiting them the two summers succeeding the summer I spent in Spain with LITA.
To summarize, in just under 6 weeks, LITA made me proficient in Spanish, which allowed me to excel in my Spanish course, which was the most difficult level offered by the school, and played a huge part in the success I had with the college applications process by differentiating me from other applicants. My host family and I have become incredibly close--we 'WhatsApp' each other at the very least once every two weeks, and sometimes send care packages to each other for special occasions.
The only problem I feel compelled to warn about it that you may leave the program with a vastly altered world-view and increased sense of confidence. You will likely develop a strong passion for Spain; its culture; its people; and its language, and develop relationships to last a lifetime.