It had been more than five weeks since I had arrived at the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio.
Through the university of my country, I was given a scholarship in order to improve my English. Since this did not cover my personal expenses I had to get a part time job. However, my student visa only allowed me to work on campus. The only jobs available at that time were as a receptionist in my dorm and serving food at the cafeteria. I accepted both jobs. The second one didn’t involve any stress for me, but the first one did.
Every time the phone at my desk rang my blood pressure went up and my heart raced. The last names I had to figure out and try to pronounce were very challenging. For instance, someone asks:
“May I please talk to David Shawn?
“David Chón?” I replied concerned about my enunciation and looking in my student list for such a name. I did not see in my list the name Chón.
“Could you please spell it for me” I said, trying to be calm.
“I’ll connect you immediately with him”. I told him with a great relief. I was very happy when the connection was a success.
Once again the phone rang and a student asked for Ken Scott.
“Can Escott? One moment please” as I looked at my list hurriedly. I learned in English that “can” means to be able or a can, what a strange name!
I asked her again to spell for me and he said:
“Ah, Ken Scott. “ It was the first time I heard such a name. Besides, in Spanish we pronounce the K like cat and in Spanish, vowels don’t begin with S but rather Es, so English learners tend to add an E to English words beginning with S. Scott becomes “Escott”. This explains it all. Plus Spanish is a phonetical language, where words are spelled like they sound.
I was just about to finish my turn when two female students came in looking for the restroom. I immediately translate in Spanish rest- descansar and room- cuarto. And I sent them to the living room thinking well, this is a room to rest. I wasn’t done with my thinking when both students were at the office again, telling me that they did not find the restroom. So I decided to show them.
Well, I was wrong once again. Then, one of them said:
“I really have to pee”.
“Ah, you want to go to the bathroom. Why you didn’t say that? Or use the word toilet or the British expression water closet?” I told them that the restroom was in the basement to their right. They looked at me as if I were drunk.
There were more incidents like this, but these are the ones that still are in my memory.