I was surprised to be placed in Brilliant Detroit’s Southwest location, as initially I thought I would be placed at their Osborn location. Upon my experience for about the first week or so of my internship, I felt somewhat of a culture shock, despite being in a neighborhood only about 30 minutes from the one in which I grew up. For those unfamiliar with Detroit, the Southwestern area of the city has a primarily Hispanic population. As such, the families that Brilliant Detroit serves in that neighborhood speak Spanish, and the organization caters to this by teaching many of their classes in Spanish.
On my first day, I quickly realized that I had forgotten about 98% of the Spanish that I had known from the few classes I took years ago. Even now after many weeks at Brilliant Detroit, I can rarely understand what is being said when I hear snippets of Spanish around the site. I teach a class for young kids and some of them know very little English, as they are still learning it as their second language. This has been a bit of a challenge for me, as I often don’t know what the kids are trying to tell me since my Spanish is not the best.
It’s interesting to be in a community so close to home that speaks an entirely different language. I do enjoy being able to relearn some of my Spanish, and I am glad I can help some of the younger kids learn some new English vocabulary. In a way, being involved in this community has made me become more acutely aware of my identity – as a cis, white, English-speaking female, I more often than not am one of the majority. Although I have had plenty of experiences where I fall into the minority category when it comes to language and/or ethnicity, these experiences are fleeting – usually for a day or so. Being in a workplace where I am consistently not one of the majority is a new experience that I am grateful to have.