What are your major(s)/minor(s)? How did you choose these areas of study? What connections do you see?
My major is Spanish through LSA and my minor is Business Administration through Ross. I am expected to graduate in April 2023 with a Bachelor’s degree. I chose to study Spanish because I have always had a strong interest in learning other languages. I really enjoyed studying Spanish throughout junior high and high school and knew it was something I wanted to continue throughout college. I chose to do the business minor because I’ve realized how important it is in any career to have knowledge in business. As an aspiring dentist, I realize how important it is to not only have a background in the sciences, but also how important it is to be able to run a business efficiently and be able to best communicate with everyone I will encounter in the future. Though Spanish and Business may not seem like they have much in common, both of these areas of studies have taught me about different cultures and the way communities around the world share similarities and differences. Especially in my Strat 445 (Base of the Pyramid) class, I have learned about the importance of understanding cultures from around the world when it comes to forming business relations and starting enterprises.
When did you begin studying Spanish? What led to your interest in pursuing a Spanish major at
I began studying Spanish in sixth grade when I was about twelve years old. I studied French and Spanish in high school and became passionate about learning new languages. I decided to pursue a Spanish major at U-M my freshman year of college in Fall 2019 as I had a desire to reach my goal of fluency and learn more about the cultures and histories of Spanish-speaking countries. My experiences in my first few Spanish classes were great, so I decided to officially apply for the Spanish major my sophomore year.
What have been some of your favorite Spanish courses in our program and why?
My favorite Spanish courses have been Spanish 283, Spanish 447, Spanish 426, and Spanish 420. Spanish 283 was by far one of my favorite classes, as I was able to learn medical terminology in Spanish while participating in a Zoom pen pal exchange with medical students in Colombia. Not only was the content interesting and valuable to my studies, but it was a great experience being able to practice my Spanish through conversing with a medical student in Colombia, about differences in our healthcare systems, medical schools, and more interesting healthcare-related topics (Profesora María Dorantes made the class a great experience and has been my Spanish advisor since!). Spanish 447 was additionally a very unique class, as I learned in depth about the complexity of the Spanish Civil War and how Michigan students in the 1930s were engaging in it through The Michigan Daily archives. I’ve always loved learning about history, and I felt that I had learned a significant amount of important history in this class and had the ability to engage in various discussions with classmates. Lastly, Spanish 426 and 420 were two of my other favorite classes, as I learned about the histories and societies of Spain and Colombia through film.
Describe your volunteer position and responsibilities. In what ways have you been able to utilize your Spanish language skills in this position? What have you learned/gained from this experience? What do you enjoy about the work you’ve been doing?
I have recently been volunteering as a Spanish interpreter at Hope Dental Clinic in Ypsilanti. I started volunteering there this summer and have continued to do so throughout this semester when needed. At Hope Clinic, I interpret for Spanish-speaking patients who know little to no English in order to facilitate the communication between the dentists and patients. I interpret dentists’ instructions and questions to the patients in Spanish and interpret patients’ symptoms, questions, and concerns to the dentists in English. I have realized how stressful it can be for non-English speaking patients to receive dental care when they are unable to understand the dentist. One of the main sources of comfort as a patient is having the ability to understand a healthcare provider’s explanation of a procedure, diagnoses, and answers to questions. Without this communication and understanding on the patient’s end, a simple visit to the dentist can be much more stressful than it should be. On the dentists’, dental hygienists’, and receptionists’ end, it can be very difficult to understand patients when they explain their symptoms and daily habits, health history, and coordinating follow-up appointments. In healthcare, this communication is essential in order to provide the best specialized care to every patient. My favorite part about this position is the ability to communicate with patients and help make their experience at the clinic better. During the moments when I am not interpreting specific sentences for them, I am able to conversate with them and get to know them for a few minutes. Whether it is bonding over a favorite movie with a kid who is nervous about his teeth cleaning or listening to their experiences with learning English as a second language from other patients, I truly enjoy being able to connect with others while helping them in the process.
Are there additional ways you found to pursue your interest in studying Spanish or helping others (involving your Spanish language skills) outside the classroom?
I am in leadership (Lower Education Coordinator) for a student organization called PALMA (Proyecto Avance Latino Mentoring Association). PALMA is a tutoring club on campus where we pair student volunteers with adults and children in the Latino community in Washtenaw county. Tutors aim to help children with schoolwork and adults with English as a Second Language instruction. I have been a part of PALMA for around two years now, where I have been a tutor/mentor for a sixth-grade student. I tutor this student in English and communicate with her mother in Spanish throughout the semester. I’ve loved being a part of PALMA and having the ability to form a strong bond with this student over my years tutoring her and have seen the appreciation families have shown for all tutors. It’s definitely been one of my favorite organizations that I have been in.
What are your future plans/goals? What is next for you? How do you envision your Spanish study being a part of your next steps?
My goal for the future is to become a dentist, and I am currently in the dental school application process. I applied to schools over the summer, so I am hoping to be able to start dental school next summer/fall. As a pre-health student, I have realized how important it is to be able to communicate efficiently with patients in both medical and dental practices. There is often a language barrier between patients and healthcare professionals, especially in the U.S., and I value taking part in breaking that language barrier by being able to communicate with a greater array of patients. Although I knew that having knowledge in Spanish would be helpful in my career, volunteering as an interpreter at Hope Clinic has opened my eyes on how having the ability to communicate in Spanish can significantly improve the experience of Spanish-speaking patients. A great percentage of the population in the U.S. is Spanish-speaking, and there is a large shortage of Spanish interpreters in clinics around the country. As a dentist, I know I will be working with a wide variety of healthcare providers and patients from a variety of backgrounds, and I know that my Spanish communication skills will play a significant role in my career.
What advice would you give to students considering majoring or minoring in Spanish?
Absolutely do it! I have loved every class of the Spanish major. I really enjoy the flexibility in choosing classes that I am interested in while also having an immense amount of options to choose from. I have strong interests in history, healthcare, film, and music, and many of the Spanish classes I have taken have combined these interests with my studies in Spanish. All of the professors have been amazing and they are all truly passionate about what they are teaching, making each class the best experience.