by Christine Kurt
The Five Best Aspects of SPAN 232
1. Opportunities to speak Spanish with native speakers
Whether you work in one of the many bilingual schools in Champaign and Urbana, the Childcare Resource Center, La Línea, or the other various places around campus, you will gain extremely valuable experiences communicating with the Spanish-speaking populations connected to your organization. This was really interesting for me because you get to experience first hand the dialectal differences among Spanish speakers. Additionally, when I spoke in Spanish I felt that everyone was really patient and supportive when I practiced my Spanish. I had many opportunities to practice Spanish with my supervisor and got to speak with fluent Spanish-speakers in the community.
2. Cultural knowledge gained from in-class instruction
When thinking of the course, the thing that makes it unique is the community experience. However, it’s important to avoid overlooking the importance of the class portion. In class we spoke about refugees, difficulties in obtaining a green card, and the challenges of having children who need to translate for their parents at events such as parent-teacher conferences. All of these helped me realize the challenges many members of the Spanish-speaking community face. Also, as a volunteer, it was easier to see where C-U lacked resources and how these not-for-profit organizations make up for such deficits.
3. SPAN 232 is unlike any Spanish class on campus
Having Spanish as one of my majors has made me appreciative of the unbelievable array of topics University of Illinois Spanish courses possess. I’ve taken classes on linguistics, culture, grammar, and dialects of Spanish in the United States. While all of these courses were interesting and enriched my knowledge of the Spanish language, SPAN 232 is unique in its hands-on applications of topics. Social, speaking, and grammar are strengthened in class; social and cultural awareness learned in class are applied to volunteering in the community. The two distinct aspects of the class combined to give a duality of learning and application that I find unique to the course.
4. You gain close relationships with fellow volunteers
Spending 28 or more hours volunteering with others is a great way to foster new relationships and see the mutual benefits in volunteering. At first, we often think of volunteering as a rather one-sided type of relationship, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Volunteering strengthens your relationships with other volunteers and members of the community. This course has taught me that volunteering involves very reciprocal benefits for both the volunteer and the community.
5. It helps you see beyond Champaign-Urbana as solely a college townOftentimes as students, it is easy to get wrapped up in our own daily routines and become comfortable with the places we frequent on campus. This course has really helped me realize that Champaign and Urbana contain more than just professors and students- there are whole other populations with their own unique needs and challenges. One of the most unexpected benefits of this course for me was my ability to see myself as a member of the community, rather than solely the university. If we, as students, adopt this mentality the campus and community as a whole will experience great improvement and strengthened bonds among these communities.