Alumni Spotlight: Dana Haddad

Dana Haddad is a recent graduate from the University of Connecticut. She is 23 and hails from Storrs, Connecticut. She enjoys taking photographs, playing Scrabble and doing the daily crossword puzzle with her "tall soy chai tea latte" from Starbucks. When not pondering 7 letter words for sad, Dana can be found kayaking, playing ultimate frisbee or catching some sun at the beach. She is a laid back person who just enjoys hanging out with friends and just having a good time.

Volunteer with a family in Spain

Why did you decide to volunteer with CHI in Spain?

Dana: As a recent college graduate, I wanted to travel before settling into my career. I found the CHI website and after reading about the program in detail, I realized this would be the best option for me because it would allow me to submerge myself in a culture, far beyond any touristy vacation. Living with a local family for three months would give me the best cultural and lingual experiences. It was comforting to know I would be living with a family who knew the area, and knew the people, and that alone made the adjusting process pass much faster.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Dana: My situation is slightly modified because not only am I a English Conversationlist, I also volunteered to babysit the children of my family for a couple extra hours a day. My family has a 4 year old daughter, 8 year old son, and 16 year old daughter. The house I live in is right on the beach, so in the morning I take the children swimming, and afterwards I play English games with the 4 year old girl until lunch. Because the child is so young and her attention span is not yet matured, I work with her in a fun environment consisting of games and books so that she picks up English in more of a conversational setting versus a classroom setting. After I cook lunch, I work with the 8 year old boy for one hour on English exercises. When the parents come home around 5, I walk on the beach and spend the rest of the day relaxing.

What made this volunteer experience unique and special?

Dana: I really enjoy the fact that I am living with a local family. They take me to places and parties I otherwise would not be aware of as a tourist. My favorite thing is meeting other members of their family, which happens often since my family loves to have fiestas! What I like about my situation is that I get to experience two different lifestyles. My family has a house right on the beach, that we are staying in for the summer, so I get to experience a Spanish beach town, and then later we move back to the city when the children start school, so I get to experience city life in Valencia as well.

How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

Dana: Learning another language was always on my bucket list, but I thought it would be something I would do via Rosetta Stone or a class in the United States. It didn't really occur to me how much Spanish I would learn living in the country for three months. I was a Communication Design major in college, and although that does not really have any correlation to languages, it does deal with communicating. When I return to the United States, I want to now find a way to incorporate speaking Spanish in my future job, which was not a concern to me before coming. I am working so hard to learn the language, I don't want to stop speaking it when I return.