Alexandra Helfgott, a double major in Spanish and Political Science (’19), is a Swanson Scholar and a William Aiken Fellow in the Honors College where she has served as an Honors Engaged Liaison for Trident Literacy Association and St. Matthew’s English as a Second Language. On campus she is a Spanish conversation peer teacher; a voting member of the College of Charleston’s Honor Board (2016-present); and past President (2017-18), Chief of Staff (2016-17) and Freshman Senator (2015-16) of the Student Government Association. In 2018 she was named Outstanding Student of the Year for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and she was also inducted into the College of Charleston’s Hall of Leaders. Beyond campus, she spent the fall 2018 semester studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and she serves as a medical interpreter with the Asociación Latina de Servicos and the Costa Layman Farms Health Fair in Augusta, Georgia, both of which enable the provision of healthcare services for undocumented, uninsured, and low-income Latinx patients.
In Alexandra’s own words:
My time in Hispanic Studies has been so impactful and the meaningful relationships I’ve developed with professors have proven to be invaluable. I will forever be grateful for their support and encouragement throughout the last four years. Upon graduating, I plan to pursue a joint JD/MPP to work in migrant labor policy where I can employ the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from both my Political Science and Spanish coursework. With the support of my Hispanic Studies faculty and positive experiences within the major, I feel confident in my Spanish skills and look forward to continuing the next chapter my professional life while also pursuing the goal of increased proficiency in Spanish.
James Riggs, a Biology major and a Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Minor (’19), is a First Year Experience Peer Facilitator and Team Leader, Treasurer of the Portuguese Club, Board Member for CougarCon, Vice President of the Catholic Student Association, Founding President of the Doctor Who Club, and accordionist for the College of Charleston Pep Band, among other activities. His excellence in leadership earned him the college-wide New Student Leader Award in 2016, and for his exemplary performance in the Hispanic Studies’ Portuguese Program, he was awarded the Outstanding Student of Portuguese in 2017.
In James’ own words:
With her first language being Português, my mother was the first in her family born in the USA. Unfortunately, by the time of my interest in our culture, my mother and grandparents were no longer effectively using the language. One of the primary reasons that I chose to become a student at the College of Charleston was the offering of the Portuguese language. Despite being able to transfer my Spanish credits from the International Baccalaureate Program, I chose to instead investigate Portuguese. Dr. Luci and Professor José Moreira were most gracious to my desire to learn the variant spoken in Portugal, often pointing out when there were differences between the Brazilian and European dialects. I conducted Duolingo competitions with my colleagues; I have served as Secretary, President, and now Treasurer for the Portuguese Club, and I have worked as a Peer Facilitator for the Portuguese First Year Experience. I am now even able to conduct conversations with my grandparents, and recently my mother, over the telephone! The more I advanced through the courses, the more I wanted students to be able to minor in Portuguese. I started a petition to demonstrate that other students were also interested. After a long process, the Portuguese and Brazilian Studies minor is now available at the College! The Portuguese minor pairs well with my Biology major due to my focus in Entomology. With Portuguese in my arsenal, I will have the opportunity to explore and work with others in the field from around the world, especially in Brazil where the diversity of insects is exceedingly vast. While I have never gotten to partake in a study abroad, by having studied Portuguese at the College of Charleston I finally will have the opportunity, for I will be leaving the country for my first time to visit Portugal with my family in the summer of 2019!
Sarah Dixon, a double major in Spanish and Public Health (’19) in the Honors College, is also an official College of Charleston Spanish tutor, peer facilitator, past Student Body Secretary (2017) and Job Coach (2016). She has also served countless hours as a volunteer in various contexts to include serving the Associate Director of Research and Data Management and the College of Public Health at East Tennessee University (2018), and Angel Oak Family Medicine (2017) in Charleston. In addition, she has studied abroad in Spain twice: in May 2016 with the College of Charleston’s program in Trujillo, and in spring 2018 with the Universidad de Pablo de Olavide in Seville.
In Sarah’s own words:
I am so grateful for the faculty in the Hispanic Studies department. Each professor I have had in this department has gone the extra mile for me and has pushed me to become who I am today. They encouraged me to study abroad, which I ended up doing twice, and they have supported me in the process of applying for a Fulbright Grant to teach English in Mexico, the Peace Corps, and graduate programs, all at the same time. My future is up in the air right now as I await the decisions from these different entities, but I know I have the support of my professors from the Hispanic Studies Department no matter what!
Danya Firestone, a double major in Spanish and Foreign Language Education with minors in Linguistics and Anthropology ’19, is also the Linguistics Club President, Honors College Sustainability and Social Justice Cohort Senior Mentor, and an Honors College Student Ambassador. In addition, Danya is an active member of the Chucktown Trippintones A Cappella group, Otro Sur (the Latin American Music Ensemble), the Jewish Student Union, and the Honors College Scholar-Citizen Initiative. Despite these numerous activities, she also finds time to collaborate with the Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Carolina as a bilingual translator and wish granting volunteer.
In Danya’s own words:
My experience as a student in the Hispanic Studies department has served an integral role in giving me an amazing experience at CofC. This department is a tight-knit community bonded by a love for the Spanish language, Latinx culture, and Latinx people. Hispanic studies professors really care about their students’ individual success and interests, and the department offers tons of opportunities to get involved with the Spanish-speaking population of Charleston. Because of the department’s connections, I have become involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a bilingual translator and wish granter for the South Carolina chapter of the organization, and a summer intern for the Mid-Atlantic chapter in Washington, D.C. Because of the Hispanic Studies department’s curriculum and faculty, which emphasize culture and linguistics in addition to literature, I was able to find my passion for Spanish and English linguistics, and I plan to apply to graduate school for that next year, in pursuit of graduate studies that will lead me to one day become a professor. In my final year, I am serving as the Linguistics club president, active in the Spanish club, teaching undergraduate Spanish conversation classes, and bringing a renowned linguist that researches Latinx communities, Dr. Ana Celia Zentella, to campus in October to talk about language discrimination practices. I look forward to what comes after graduation, and know that I have the community of the Hispanic Studies faculty and students supporting me!
Ana Camila Bailey, a double major in Spanish and Communication ’18, is a member of Global Scholars, Delta Gamma Sorority, and she is an Operations Assistant for the tech startup Casa. She has also served the Department of Hispanic Studies as a Spanish conversation peer instructor, and she studied abroad twice: in Lisbon, Portugal in fall 2016, and in Córdoba, Argentina during the summer of 2017. She also worked as a Marketing Intern for Bedkin and Sycer in 2017.
In Camila’s own words:
I attribute so much of my growth as a student to the Hispanic studies department at CofC. The Spanish major is made up of rigorous courses that focus on literature, language, and culture and has shaped my knowledge of the Hispanic world while improving my language and writing skills both in Spanish as well as English. The professors in the department push their students to go beyond merely learning the material, to instead develop a genuine understanding that can be applied to both past and present real world situations. My experience in the Hispanic studies department has re-inspired my love of the language and has given me the drive and confidence to continue this practice in future endeavors.