Excerpt from the article, “Native speakers or heritage speakers should also consider living in the Casa Hispana,” says native Spanish speaker Anna Paneda, a junior foreign language education major who has lived in the house since her sophomore year. She adds that it’s also the perfect community for students who “want to submerge themselves in the Spanish language but may not be able to take the opportunity to travel abroad.”
And, with travel and study abroad at a virtual standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, those opportunities are especially scarce these days.
That’s why tools like TalkAbroad – which facilitates conversations between students and speakers around the world – are so crucial. The service has been used in many CofC Spanish classes over the years – but, last semester, it occurred to Gómez and senior Hispanic studies instructor Devon Hanahan that TalkAbroad could be applied in Casa Hispana, too.
“We had just installed this brand-new 50-inch TV with a camera and a dedicated PC, so it just made perfect sense for the Casa residents to use it as a portal for communicating and interacting with other cultures,” says Hanahan, who serves as the director of Casa Hispana. “We figured that, if our students can’t go to them, we’ll bring them to us.”
When Hanahan reached out to TalkAbroad about the idea, the company loved it – and even provided a grant to cover the service.
“Adding TalkAbroad conversations into the schedule for the Casa Hispana was a really unique and exciting idea,” says Todd Nichols, CEO of TalkAbroad. “We’re thrilled to support the experiment, and I can really see the conversations adding a dynamic and unique element to the language immersion experience and the growth of students as global citizens.”
For the 8th time since 2011, the College of Charleston’s Nu Zeta Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, has been selected as an Honor Chapter for its noteworthy activities during the academic year. Of the 625 chapters nationwide, the Executive Committee selects 12-15 Honor Chapters yearly for this prestigious distinction. In July 2019, the College of Charleston was one of only 16 institutions to receive this honor for activities realized during the 2018-19 academic year, during which time Drs. Susan Divine and Carmen Grace served as chapter advisers, and Adriana Velasquez (’19) as student chapter president.
A double major in Spanish and International Studies with a minor in Linguistics (’19), Jenna McLaughlin is also a member of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and she served as a Spanish Peer Teacher (2016), a CofC Spanish Tutor (2016-17), Secretary for the Special Needs Peer Helper (2015), and Team Captain for Relay for Life (2015), among other activities. In the spring of 2018 she studied abroad in Seville, Spain, and in 2016 she traveled to Honduras and Mexico to volunteer as a Spanish/English Interpreter with Torch Missions and Campus Church respectively. Jenna also worked as a Spanish/English Medical Interpreter at Cahaba Valley Healthcare in Birmingham, AL in 2015.
In her own words:
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Spanish Major at CofC. Spanish has always been one of my favorite subjects, and the professors here at the College really helped me refine my skills and feel completely prepared to study abroad in Seville, Spain. Studying abroad is an enjoyable, empowering, and enlightening experience that I would recommend to any younger student, especially those who are interested in learning about language and culture!
One of my favorite parts about being a Spanish major is the freedom it allows me in my post-grad plans. In these past four years as a Spanish major at College of Charleston, I have had the ability to cultivate a skill that I can take with me in all of my future occupations! Coming into college, I had no idea what I wanted to pursue as an occupation, so I’m really thankful that my Spanish major has provided me with the flexibility to take the skill of bilingualism into a variety of areas.
Student Megan Stover, a double major in Spanish and public health, pushed for nearly two years to open a campus food pantry after a class project tasked her with creating a plan to make a difference on campus.
“After its opening, there have been so many students, staff and faculty that have reached out to me in order to donate, find ways to collaborate or simply learn more about the pantry,” says Stover, who serves as the pantry’s president. “I hope that we can increase collaboration with other organizations on our campus in order to increase awareness and decrease the amount of stigma that can be associated with being food insecure or needing help. Everyone needs help from time to time, and no one should feel ashamed about that.”
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!