Thursday, February 24, 2011

Student Reflection: April Nwatah

by April Nwatah

This semester I will be volunteering with the ministry of Salt and Light. This ministry provides many services to the Urbana-Champaign community, including food and clothes distribution. From what I’ve heard, this is the first time that Spanish 232 is working with Salt and Light, so I am excited to be a pioneer in this project!

From what I have been told, there are many Spanish-speaking immigrants who come to Salt and Light, yet none of the staff speak Spanish. Therefore, my help will make an impact on their ministry. That feels really good to know (=

In terms of what I will be doing, my responsibilities will be pretty open-ended. I anticipate the need to translate documents and signs as needed. I also anticipate the need to be a bridge between the Spanish-speaking customers and the other volunteers and staff. Because my responsibilities are so open-ended, I acknowledge the fact that I will need to create a lot of my own opportunities to speak Spanish. I am excited about taking this initiative! 

Student Reflection: Marlee Stein

by Marlee Stein

Hello Everyone.

My name is Marlee and I am a sophomore at UIUC. I am currently a Spanish and Psychology major and unlike the majority of Spanish 232 students, I have yet to study abroad for an extended period of time.  My passion for Spanish comes from my mother.  My mother studied abroad in Barcelona her junior year of college and made many lifelong friends.  To this day she is still friends with them, and our families have created a strong friendship.  Growing up I was pen pals with the youngest daughter of my mother’s friend.  Our families have visited each other a few times, and our connection really inspired me to want to learn the Spanish language and experience more of the Hispanic culture.  My sophomore year of high school I went to the south of Spain and stayed with a home stay family in a very small town, Guadix.  One day, the group I was traveling with took a day trip to Córdoba and saw La mezquita.  Instantly I was in awe, to this day it is my ultimate favorite place.  The intricate detail of both the contrasting religions and cultures was truly spectacular.  The entire tour was done in Spanish, while I knew a good deal of Spanish I am in no way fluent.  After seeing La mezquita I wanted to learn the language so I could fully understand about this beautiful place.  Other than my brief home stay I have never spent an extended period of time abroad.  I am eager to hopefully study abroad spring semester of my junior year.  I am extremely nervous to study abroad because other than this class and Spanish 208, I have not had a lot of practice with using the Spanish.  Thus, I am very excited to be taking this class, because it is giving me the tools to improve my fluency.

I love working with children and am interested in volunteering abroad with children, so I chose to work in a bilingual classroom at Booker T. Washington.   The majority of the children are very eager to help me with my Spanish.  Since I volunteer in a third grade classroom, the children are all fairly fluent in English so I don’t get to use as much Spanish as I would like.  I try my best to ask them reading comprehension questions in Spanish to make sure they know the meaning of words they are reading.  I hope as the volunteering goes on I get to use my Spanish more, because now it is slightly frustrating.  I will update you in a few weeks if there is improvement and about my experiences!

Hasta Luego, Marlee

Student Reflection

by Kendra Dickinson

Hello Everyone!

As some of you may remember, I have been working in the Extension Office of Hispanic Outreach as part of an independent study. While I do many different tasks and aid a variety of different initiatives, the focus of my work is Environmental projects that affect Spanish-speaking and Latino communities. I have been working on a Water Quality Survey funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Illinois State Water Survey. Julia Bella Bravo and Francisco J. Seufferheld of the Office of Hispanic Outreach designed the survey. This week’s picture is of Francisco and me after a long afternoon of work. The survey was administered by Francisco in many cities and regions around the Midwest including Chicago and the Chicago suburbs, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kankakee, Champaign-Urbana and Milwaukee among others. The survey, written in Spanish and administered only to native Spanish speakers, aims at gaining more information about: (i) The perceived and actual household water quality of Spanish-speakers in the Midwest, (ii) The access of the Spanish-speaking communities of the Midwest to information about water quality, (iii) The main sources of water of members of the Spanish-speaking communities of the Midwest, (iv) Preoccupation of Spanish-speaking communities in the Midwest with water contaminants. For example, one of the questions on the survey is:

 ¿Con que frecuencia compra agua embotellada?
a. Nunca
b. Algunas veces
c. Muy a menudo
d. Siempre

How often do you buy bottled water?
            a. Never
            b. Once in while
            c. Sometimes
            d. Always

While the focus of the study is to gain the data necessary to recognize trends in the above-listed areas, I also expect that the survey will reveal other correlations the above listed factors and city of residence, age, place of birth, among others.

For the past few weeks, Francisco and I have been working on compiling the data acquired after administering the 20-question survey to nearly 100 people. First we had to total the responses to all of the questions, and then we had to adapt all of the data into graphs and other visual representations to present to the USDA and Illinois State Water Survey as part of our preliminary analysis. We have not yet interpreted the significance of the data, as this was only the first round of survey that will be conducted. Soon, we will be working on sending out surveys to locations in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as visiting some locations in these states. I am really looking forward to interacting with people while administering the survey in order to experience not only the data side of the survey but also the inextricably important element of the human experience and interaction.

So many of you might ask "Why does this matter?" At the start of working on this survey I asked Francisco what it was exactly that we aimed at discovering. His response was that he could not really determine one single or underlying goal or hypothesis in obtaining this information, simply that it was information that the USDA and the Illinois State Water Survey were interested in acquiring, and that with time we would begin to see more of a pattern in the data and begin to understand it better. As I thought about this I realized two very important implications of this study aside from the actual data that has been and will be acquired. First, the Spanish-speaking and Latino communities in the U.S. are growing, and represent a significant and important population that help to make up the fabric of our country. Therefore, understanding the factors that affect their daily lives, such as their water quality, water sources and access to information about their water quality are important. Secondly, the fact that the USDA and the Illinois State Water Survey take interest in researching the water quality and access to information about water quality of Spanish-speakers and Latinos in the U.S. represents an increased awareness of the importance of Latinos in the U.S. on a governmental level.

Over time we will interview more people and begin to see more patterns in the data, and at that time we will begin to interpret what they mean. I am looking forward to seeing exactly what this survey has to offer and what it can demonstrate about water quality and Latinos in the U.S. In the mean time, stay tuned for more updates as we continue to gather data!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Student Reflection: Val Kaskovich

by Val Kaskovich


My name is Val Kaskovich and I'm a senior here at UIUC double-majoring in Spanish and Economics. I'm very excited to be contributing to the Spanish & Illinois blog this semester! I have been studying for about ten years. As my interest in the language grew throughout high school, my decision to continue Spanish studies at the University of Illinois was truly a "no-brainer." During the Spring 2010 semester, I spent five life-changing months studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain. It was there that I fell in love with Basque and Spanish culture, achieved a level of fluency, and (best of all) learned a few new recipes! I'm now a travel addict and love to use my language skills wherever I can. Outside of Spain, I have been exposed to other cultures and dialects in Mexico, Argentina, and Cuba. Next I'd like to conquer Peru, Ecuador or Costa Rica! 

The thing I love most about language studies is that you never stop learning -- there is always a new word or expression or grammatical peculiarity to discover. Additionally, studying Spanish has opened my eyes to other cultures and belief systems as well as sparked my interest in other languages. I am now studying both German and Catalan, and would love to tackle Portuguese in the future. On campus, Mi Pueblo Spanish conversation groups and International Illini events have allowed me to meet others who have an interest in the language and/or who are of Spanish-speaking backgrounds. 

This semester I will be volunteering with the S.O.A.R. program (Student Opportunities for After-School Resources) at Booker T. Washington Elementary School here in Champaign as part of the "Spanish in the Community" course. My project consists of volunteering with bilingual students with the ultimate goal of improving math and literacy skills. Many of these students are from Hispanic families and are challenged by language barriers in an educational setting. I have actually volunteered with S.O.A.R. in the past and am excited to continue working with the wonderful students and staff at both BTW and the S.O.A.R. program. My hope is that the students receive the encouragement and guidance needed to excel academically, while at the same time enjoying their time with student tutors and fellow classmates. Working one-on-one with a student is an incredibly rewarding experience. I look forward to building relationships while at the same time practicing my language and leadership skills in a way that directly benefits the students and the community. Check for updates on my experiences on this blog! For more information on S.O.A.R., click here: ¡Hasta pronto!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Emotions and Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

My good friend, Marcos Campillo, shared this image on Facebook recently. Marcos is one of the most creative professors I know, so I am sure that his students will learn a lot and have fun with whatever activity he creates around these images.

It also reminded me of the range of emotions that Spanish community service-learning (CSL) students experience.  Now that we have had three weeks of classes, students have gone through many emotional stages.

Some students have been analytical and self-questioning: can I really commit to this course and the work in the community, given all my other responsibilities? Indeed, some students dropped the course after realizing that they couldn't commit to it.  That shows maturity, even though I would love for students to see the added value of hours spent in the community versus some other activities they might be doing.

One student in particular was downright scared. (I will share that case in a future post.) On her first visit to the Refugee Center, she had to work with a service recipient on a matter that taxed her Spanish abilities as well as her general knowledge of the issue at hand. She questioned whether she could handle the work there. Later, however, she felt relief when she worked the next time and was able to handle everything that came at her.

Right now I have a message in my inbox from a student who is feeling under pressure: the program she will work with does not really start until March, so she's afraid she won't be able to work the necessary hours. Should she switch community partners? There's no clear-cut answer, but I know that she is anxious to get to work in the community and perhaps impatient to get going on those looming 28 hours that are required.

Many other emotions will emerge during the semester, including my own. (Why isn't "agobiada" pictured? ha) While our tendency in the academy is to focus on intellectual matters and ignore (even disdain, at times) emotional matters, we must explicitly talk about emotions in a CSL course. In fact, Comunidades does include activities about students' emotions because they are a part of the learning process when you are self-reflexive, as CSL requires.

Student Reflection

by Kendra Dickinson

As some of you may remember, I am a senior in Spanish and the Environmental Fellows Program, and I recently started working at University of Illinois Office of Extension and Outreach, in the division of Hispanic Programming. I am working with two wonderfully intelligent and creative individuals, Julia Bello-Bravo and Francisco J. Seufferheld. They work tirelessly to provide programs and information to the Spanish-speaking and Latino members of the community, as well as engaging all members of the campus in programs that focus on Spanish-speaking countries.

For the past week and a half I have been helping them to prepare for two upcoming trips that aim at increasing the cultural knowledge of our campus community. The first trip, which will be led by Julia Bello-Bravo, is the Spain Wine Field Study Trip. This is a trip open to both faculty and students, taking place in April, which will tour Spain’s historic wine region. Participants will visit many locations in Spain, including Madrid, Peñafiel, Aldeanueva del Ebro, Logroño, El Ciego, La Rioja, Montseny and Barcelona, while immersing themselves in the wine culture of Spain though activities such as touring historic and modern wineries and vineyards, visiting the Wine Regulation Council of Spain, attending wine tastings, and visiting Enology (Wine-Making) Department of the University of La Rioja. While the work that I did to assist in the planning of this trip consisted of making a poster to announce the upcoming Information Session about the Trip, as well as making phone calls, I have really enjoyed being a part of making this trip happen. This is an incredible opportunity for students to travel to Spain with a Spanish native, Julia, and to learn about one of Spain’s important traditions.

I have also been working with Francisco Seufferheld in planning a Spring Break trip to Perú. This trip will visit many important cultural, historical and archaeological sites of Perú, including Lima, Cuzco, Machu Pichu and more. Students and faculty participating in the trip will have the chance to taking part in activities such as hiking, folkloric dancing, and sightseeing. Just from talking with Francisco about the sites that trip participants will get to visit and the immense amount of cultural value that they hold, I am certain that this trip is going be incredible.

Before I began to help plan and prepare for these two trips, I did not really consider the place that these types of trips had in “Hispanic Programming.” I suppose that prior to this experience, I assumed that “Hispanic Programming” was aimed solely at serving Spanish-speaking and Latino communities here at home. However, while the Office of Hispanic Program does work tirelessly to share resources with communities here, these two trips embody another very important aspect of “Hispanic Programming,” which is cultural exchange. By providing students and faculty of the university the opportunity to visit places that are important in the Spanish-speaking world, the Office of Hispanic Outreach is giving students and faculty the opportunity to learn more about the Spanish-speaking countries and cultures, deepening their cultural awareness and understanding.

Working on and learning more about these trips has made me very excited to perhaps participate in one or both of them!

If you would like to participate in either of the trips, please attend an information session:

Spain Wine Field Study Information Session:
Thursday, February 10th          4:30 pm
Spitze Conference Room        ACES Library

Perú Trip Information Session:
Thursday, February 10th          5:30 pm
Spitze Conference Room        ACES Library

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Student Reflection: April Nwatah

Note from Ann:  I was very excited in our class today to find out that April has three blogs of her own.  This semester she will be guest blogging here about her experiences working in the community.

by April Nwatah

Hello world!

My name is April and I’m a junior at UIUC. I’m majoring in Global Studies with an area concentration in Latin America and a thematic area in Social Work. I’ve been studying Spanish since the 7th grade, but I hadn’t really had a decent command of the language until I came to college. Before Spanish 232, I had taken Spanish 103, 141, and 200. In the spring of my sophomore year, I studied abroad in Ecuador. While I attended an Ecuadorian university in Cumbaya (an upperclass suburb of Ecuador’s capital city - Quito) I lived with a host family in Lumbisi (a small semi-indigenous town). While in Ecuador I was also able to volunteer at a community center teaching English to a bunch of 8 and 9 year old kids. It was a crazy-awesome time!

After being in Ecuador, taking my classes with other Ecuadorians, and volunteering I came back to the United States wanting to continue to use Spanish. Last summer I worked at the YMCA as a day camp counselor. At camp, I was the only staff member who spoke Spanish so I ended up spending a lot of the summer doing translations. I wanted to continue my work with Spanish speakers here at U of I so I decided to take this course.

I hope for this project to open the door for me into the Spanish-speaking world of Urbana-Champaign. I hope to meet and be able to assist the Spanish speakers of the area. Ultimately, I hope that this is a mutually beneficial experience. Not only do I want to help through my volunteer work, I look forward to learning from conversing with the people that I work with.

Until next time!

Student Spotlight Update: Lindsey Meyers

by Ann Abbott

It's also so nice to stay in touch with former students, especially when they are doing great things and still using their Spanish.  I think current students are well-served when we can show them models of what a "Spanish major" can look like after graduation.

Last fall I posted about Lindsey Meyers' work in Ecuador.  After just about four months there, here is an update from Lindsey herself:

"I am learning so, so much here in Quito.  Por fin, after years of studying it, I feel like I am gaining a confident grasp of speaking Spanish.  I have finally learned to relax when I'm speaking, and not "THINK" so much, and I've realized that all the correct tenses are in my mind, and eventually are working their way into my speech.  I've tried my best to stop translating in my head, and accepted Spanish as it's own language, and that's helped a lot.

"With my variety of classes: 2nd grade english, Phys Ed, cooking in the kitchen with my girls program, etc I am learning a multitude of new vocabulary.  The kids have taught me so much!  Another class I do, which is one of my favorites, is adult education.  There are many indigenous people that are illiterate in Spanish due to their native language of Quechua, or just that never received an education, therefore we have classes at night for the adults learning basic math and reading.  We're actually teaching the Spanish language to them, and it's so cool to see them progress.  I have a young couple, Maria and Angel, who are just so eager to learn and have improved so much since we started with learning the alphabet and basic syllables.  We're reading a geography book now, and they're so interested in it!  Plus actually teaching Spanish, not just teaching in Spanish, further helps to ingrain the language into my mind.  It has truly been an incredible experience so far, and I'm so happy to be here.

"And in the midst of my lesson planning, Center activities, and exploration of Quito, I think I've decided to wait on applying to graduate school for occupational therapy.  I actually think I may consider teaching, especially in a bi-lingual school.  I really would like to pursue a career in which I could use Spanish....I'm still figuring things out."