For my Beyond the Classroom Experience, I spent the spring semester of 2022 in Puerto Rico to become fluent in Spanish. I am a senior studying Computer Science and Spanish with certificates in Cybersecurity and Global Leadership, and this experience has allowed me to combine my interests in both technology and languages. I participated in the National Student Exchange program, and was placed at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Mayagüez on the west side of the island in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
While in Puerto Rico, I have been able to gain new insights into my global theme, Technology & Society. In school, I have greatly enjoyed a course in Artificial Intelligence, and am working on a project with other students to create an app with an AI model that can categorize what kinds of trash can be recycled on the island. Recycling is complicated in Puerto Rico since much of it has to be shipped back to the U.S. mainland, so it has been a great experience to work with local students to make something that will benefit their community. It is important to many people here to preserve the natural beauty of their island, and there are also efforts to keep the beaches and rivers clean and healthy.
Outside of school, I have enjoyed listening to local music and visiting wonderful beaches and waterfalls. One type of music that is very popular here is called bomba, and it is a form of latin music with lots of percussion and call and response lyrics. There are some student bomba groups that I got to see in a talent show, and there is always a band playing at events and festivals. The beaches are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, and it has been especially nice to have 80 degree weather every day while it is still snowy back home in Montana! I’ve also enjoyed getting to know my classmates and the other exchange students, and we’ve gone on trips around the island. All in all, I would recommend Puerto Rico to anyone who wants to improve their Spanish and enjoy the nature and culture of the island.