My name is Nathalia Grijalba Robles, I am 23 years old and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since I was a child, I have dreamed of and fought for my future. In my country, access to education is not easy and policies in this area are almost non-existent. I consider myself a lucky girl because, thanks to my effort and that of my family, I was able to study and graduate as a lawyer from the University of Santiago de Cali; but my ambition took me even further. After a whole year of collecting, preparing and translating documents, I applied to the University of Milan, but I was not accepted because of my insufficient knowledge of English. After a long period of reflection and catharsis, I regained my motivation and started looking for a cost-effective way to learn the language. My attention was drawn to a global sustainable farming community, where participants receive food and accommodation in exchange for helping with the owners' harvests. In October 2019, together with my boyfriend, I travelled to Wales and arrived in Dinas Powys, a village very close to Cardiff. Shortly thereafter, we enrolled on a free English course offered by Cardiff University: we were eager to learn the language and we wanted to get the maximum from the upcoming seven months of Welsh life. Towards the end, the pandemic hindered our chances of attending the face-to-face classes, but it did not in any way affect the quality of teaching we received from two kind instructors, to whom, over time, I am infinitely grateful. In March 2020, I applied for the MA in Human Rights and Multilevel Governance at the University of Padua and beginning my adventure in Italy.
What I bring with me from my experience in Wales is the awareness of the importance of human relationships and informal encounters, and it is this that prompted me to apply as Spanish-language moderator of the Conversazioni CreAttive offered by the Centro Linguistico Ateneo (CLA). Conversazioni CreAttive are cycles of conversational meetings in groups of a few people, aimed at learning and improving a language through informal and friendly discussions, with a native speaking moderator. It is possible to participate either as a moderator or as a panel participant, and the application process is available from the self-study section on the official CLA website. Registration for moderators opens at the beginning of each semester and closes in a couple of weeks. Registration for participants, on the other hand, opens at a slightly later time. Classes begin in the middle of the semester and last for five or six weeks. There are several languages available including French, English, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and German.
Before starting, all moderators have to attend two meetings with the coordinators of the initiative to collect all the necessary material, reference topics, questionnaires, and also some tips on both how to manage the audience and how to improve moderating skills. However, each native-speaking facilitator is free to manage the conversations according to the needs and attitudes of the students. In my case, the participants were mainly Italian-speaking students coming from linguistic and international relations backgrounds. They wanted to explore the Colombian culture, the differences in accents between Spain and Colombia, with respect to writing and speaking, and to debate on current socio, cultural and political challenges affecting my home country. Many times, I threw an idea for the debate and then we spent time sharing personal views and experiences. Without a doubt, the biggest obstacle I encountered was the Covid-19 restrictions, as I would have liked to meet the participants in person, have a coffee, and speak the language more naturally.
I am convinced that Conversazioni CreAttive are a very beneficial instrument to deepen linguistic skills and to acquire new ones. I had the chance to venture into a new field that I had never explored before; language teaching and facilitation. I learned that the role of a facilitator is made up of two souls: that of a teacher and that of a friend. I got to know strangers who then became friends and, above all, it was an opportunity to bring back memories from Colombia and to recover from nostalgia and stress. My advice to those who want to grow and learn in both their student and personal life is to actively seek out opportunities, without fear of making mistakes. Just go out there, collect all your motivation and determination, and adjust the path according to your goals.
Written by Nathalia Grijalba Robles
Edited by Giulia Rosina
Follow Nathalia’s story on Instagram @nathaliagrijala.
During the lessons, the CLA coordinators were very attentive to both the moderators and the participants. I, for one, am grateful to Federica for the special support she offered, helping me as much as possible and solving any inconvenience. The upcoming deadline for applying as moderators is 11th of March.
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