Senior Spotlight! Rain Johnson in Barranquilla, Colombia


“An unforgettably amazing trip to La Guajira. It is a land of kind, mostly indigenous people. The ocean meets mountains, meets desert. It is unbelievable. The people make bags, hammocks, shoes, bracelets and other beautiful hand crafted goods for a living”.






The Playa Kilimanjaro where Rain spent weekly time soaking up the rays and the fresh sea water.



          Rain Johnson, born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been attending NMU for four years now and will be graduating this may with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography, not to mention a lot of Spanish Classes under her belt. She is proud to be fluent in both Spanish and English, and has a budding desire to tackle Arabic next! Rain admits, “I love people and the fact that now I can communicate with an entire portion of the world that without knowing Spanish would be nearly impossible, is very important to me. In addition to that, there are times when I can look to the way things are said in Spanish to help the way I say it in English. Direct translations rarely exist and sometimes what I have in my mind is better communicated using Spanish”. Even in Marquette, Rain is great at finding Spanish speakers to practice with, and finds these moments amusing, refreshing, and teach-worthy. From her vantage point, self-expression becomes limitless with twice as many terms in your word bank to utilize.

           In her free time, you can find Rain Johnson hiking, camping, cliff jumping, or snowboarding around the area, but this story will highlight an adventure much farther away from the Upper Peninsula. Rain has granted us a unique look into her study abroad trip to Colombia, where she lived with a host mother and her son, and sought to immerse herself in a new culture in order to attain mastery of the Spanish language. As Rain gets “very anxious when life becomes mundane”, this vivacious redheaded student, who is in the process of growing dreadlocks, loves and embraces her uniqueness to its fullest and to satisfy her love of change, “felt a need to get away and explore something entirely new!”. Rain was thus inspired to cross the border, and reflects, “The coast of Colombia offers an open-minded, loud, welcoming, sunny, crazy hot experience!” …This was not Rain’s first trip abroad. She had also traveled to Germany and Norway, both in home stay programs, but feels that these were incomparable to her time spent in Colombia.

        Azotea.jpg  Here Rain is pictured on top of the roof of the apartment where she lived, in Barranquilla, on the Atlántico coast of Colombia. She spent a lot of time on that roof writing, sunbathing, listening to music, working out, napping, and enjoying the occasional fiesta. Rain learned quickly that this nation is a third world country far more complex than what she had originally thought. –“Colombia has people who are living in trendy apartments in the city with running hot water, electricity, air-conditioning, and expensive artwork, with expensive clothes and smart phones. There are others in the same country that have no home, no access to health care or education, living in fear of being murdered or watching their children get taken away to become a child soldier. This dichotomy is something that I am still struggling to comprehend” states Johnson. Another interesting fact is that Colombians are not afraid to offend with pure honesty as we are here in the U.S. and they fully embrace their rich history, electing not to be bitter about the tough moments in their nation’s past. Rain shares, “-The most important thing I learned is to let go. I became fearless. I vacationed alone with no reservations or specific plans. I slept in hammocks on the beach and hopped on Moto taxis. I really let myself go and was free”. What a renewing experience this study abroad trip was for Rain. A notable aspect of her adventure was the Colombian dance craze. During the time Rain spent dancing, which was a large majority, she gained new cooking skills, listened to new music, enjoyed friendly and optimistic new people that dance during all activities, even the crowds at concerts and street shows were always moving their dancing feet. “People on the streets playing music offered yet another opportunity to dance. I frequented salsa bars and discotecas. I danced many nights away with and in my toes and a fresh sea breeze. I was truly in paradise”. The warmth of the Colombian people allowed Rain to feel comfortable and welcome everyday! -“I would get compliments and positive blessings every morning before leaving the house. I would get smiles from stranger and men offering their seats on the bus to me. I would stand to let on elderly person take my seat on the bus and they would gladly offer to hold my bag to make it easier for me to stand.  People were all so kind, generous, and just lovely to be around”.

          Currently in Marquette, you might find Rain enjoying the local breweries and coffee shops, and despite their stark differences from Colombia, she tells us, “You could say drinking beverages really is my cup of tea”. After all, tea, coffee, and beer tend to lead to great conversation among friends old and new, and Rain clearly enjoys all people and the rewarding aspects that communication brings. A small but significant detail on her trip was the slang words of the coastal people of Colombia. “These words and phrases, and there are many, are only spoke there and I find that really neat.” From her time spent dancing and exploring to her newfound knowledge of culture and colloquialisms, I would encourage anyone to seek Rain out and ask about her experiences abroad which have been so enlightening and life changing for her.

          When pondering a study abroad trip to Colombia, Rain suggests that a student should consider the following: “Allow yourself to sweat profusely on an hour-long bus ride with vianato blasting in your ears usually more than once everyday. Get scammed by people selling anything and everything, and then surprise them by knowing how much something should cost once you’ve learned your lesson the hard way. Kiss your host mom on the cheek every time you head out of the house with her best wishes of you having the best time wherever it is that you are off to. Hop onto a moto-taxi after getting off a bus in the wrong beach town. Go cool off in the big sea. Drink an Aguila and cheer on the soccer team. Eat raw fish on the beach. Live life to the fullest and learn how to see that life has so much to offer even to people that seem, by our North American standards, to have so little”. Rain Johnson’s advice to our Wildcat community can be summarized in two words, “Go abroad”. This is the door through which we reach other worlds and profound new ways of thinking. These simple words are truly a way for NMU students to change the world, and we as a department cannot wait to see what adventures Rain Johnson takes part in upon graduation this May!

News and Information

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Study Abroad Award Recipients

Congratulations to Leah Piggott, Carrie DeWolfe, and Danielle Schafer for receiving study abroad awards from the Modern Languages and Literatures department. All three will be studying abroad in the Summer 2014 semester. 

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Fall 2015 Courses Now Available! 

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Languages Lab Availability:

The NMU Languages Lab offers assistance in 5 different languages: Spanish, German, French, Russian and Arabic.

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Set Sail on a New Adventure!... Evolve as a global explorer! Join an NMU Faculty-led study abroad program

A few of the benefits include:

  • Taking coursework to a hands-on level and immersing yourself in a new and exciting place!
  • Receiving academic credit in courses initiated, organized, and carried out by NMU faculty, with assistance from the International Programs office.
  • Experiencing rich, with cultural activities, visits to museums and performances, field studies, guest lectures, and more.
  • Financial aid can apply.

On behalf of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures:

Congratulations to the NMU Spring graduating class of 2015! Best of luck in your next step!

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