Megan Banick (Spanish major, graduated December 2005)
Having a degree in Spanish from UWRF has been essential in my current position as GED Program Coordinator at Neighborhood House. I am spending a year volunteering for the AmeriCorps Vista program at a non-profit that works with immigrants and refugees. During this time, I am creating an Adult Basic Education program for advanced English Language Learners. Obviously, many of our new students cannot speak English. It is quite difficult to enroll in an English class if you don't speak English, unless there are resources and people to help you in your native language. I often use my Spanish to help these new learners. In addition, when issues such as immigration rights, housing problems or legal troubles arise, it is very useful to have someone to consult with who can speak your language. Many limited English speakers are very excited that they can fully express their concerns and successes with someone at their "school" in their native language.
My studies with the UWRF Spanish program also gave me the ability to work with a very diverse group of people. I learned so much about Hispanic culture. Going on the Mexico J-Term Study Tour was one of the most useful experiences of my college career. I work with the largest population of Mexican immigrants in St. Paul and knowing about their culture and way of life allows me to be a better teacher for them. I also gained a better understand of United States culture by studying other cultures. I am able to step back from a situation and use that knowledge to see where it is difficult for immigrants or refugees from around the world to be confused by our culture. Because of this, our program is better able to work with students to create a learning environment that makes individuals from many cultures feel welcome and comfortable together.
The Modern Language department also made it easy for me to transfer Spanish credits from my study abroad in Santiago, Chile. The combination of my Spanish language studies, trip to Mexico, and study abroad in South America have made me a more dynamic candidate for jobs, and employers have commented on my ability to adapt when working in a multi-cultural situation. The Spanish department at UWRF made it easy for me to finish my degree and gain these experiences, thus paving the way for my future career!