At the beginning of our semester together during a cooking lesson, our language professor looked around the table at us with a funny look on her face. She remarked, “You are all very different. Not in a bad way, but each of you has very different personalities.” At that point in time, tentative bonds had begun to form between us, but they were only in their beginning stages. Looking to our final days together, our professor spoke to us again, commenting on our dynamics again. She said, “Yes, you are all still very different, but this class has become a family.”
Coming from five different colleges with only three students knowing any other students prior, we were a bit of a mismatched bunch. Some of us studied political science, some of us studied English. Some of us had been the class clown since elementary school, some of us were more than happy being quiet and reserved. And some of us learned this way, and some of us learned that way. To say the least, each person in that classroom was an entirely individual person.
To my surprise, we collectively began spending time together outside the classroom. And not a little bit of time, but a lot of time. From eating breakfast together on the weekends to studying together at Salein (CET’s infamous student hangout), to watching the new Game of Thrones episode airing every Sunday to eating absurd amounts of Yemeni food after class, we spent the majority of each and every day together. I’m talking 10+ hours a day together.
I’ve done experiences like CET in the past. Not other language programs per se, but programs that heavily emphasize a group dynamic. I’ve been backpacking in Wyoming with thirteen other people, lived in Thailand for a summer with seven others, and gone on more than one “group bonding” retreat in high school. However, at the end of this program, I felt like I was leaving some of my closest friends. I’ve never cried at the end of something like this before, but you bet I secretly cried in the bathroom after having to say goodbye to everyone. And I know I’m not the only one. The first night that everyone began heading toward the airport, tears flowed freely and with little discretion.
I don’t know if this program bonds students together because of a difficult, collective experience or if we somehow clicked by chance (I lean toward the former), but I hope CET continues to give incoming students a new family like the one given to me.