Meet Our Students
Our undergraduates come from all over the University and choose Spanish & Portuguese Studies for a myriad of reasons. Below, a selection of students discuss why they chose our major or minor, their favorite courses, and their goals for the future.
Sunny Shands, Sophmore
A current sophomore at the U, Sunny is double majoring in Political Science and Spanish Studies. She chose to study Spanish because of the culture and thinks it is fun to be able to speak another language. Beyond this, she believes that being able to speak multiple languages allows you to learn about the cultures and struggles of people in other countries. Her favorite classes have been Latino Immigration and Community Engagement, and Latin American Politics. Outside of class, Sunny is passionate about social justice, activism, and politics. She aspires to be an immigration or civil rights lawyer, and eventually a Senator or Governor of Minnesota.
Jesus Encarnación, Junior
Jesus is triple (!) majoring in Spanish & Portuguese Studies, French Studies, and Linguistics. He chose to pursue Spanish because he wanted to further develop his heritage language. Additionally, knowing Spanish has made it easier for him to learn French and Portuguese. His favorite courses have been Intro to Hispanic Linguistics and the Origins and History of Spanish and Portuguese, because they have fit nicely with his Linguistics major. In the future he hopes to work in education to inspire students as his professors have inspired him. He loves to travel and hopes to visit many countries and use the languages he has learned.
Natalia Johnson, Senior
Natalia is double majoring in Spanish and Sociology. She chose to study Spanish to strive for fluency and a deeper understanding for the language. One of her favorite classes was Latinx Immigration and Community Engagement. Not only was it a way for her to get involved with spectacular organizations in the Twin-Cities, but it also helped give context for her work as a journalist at Latina Republic. Natalia is passionate about health equity, especially as it pertains to the mental health care system in the US. In the future she hopes to work as a therapist, with the security that her degree will aid her as she anticipates working with English and Spanish speakers.
Alemni Yiran, Junior
Alemni is majoring in Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics with a minor in Astrophysics, she also decided to add a minor in Spanish Studies. “I've always had an appreciation for the language and for learning more about hispanic/latino culture, so I thought the best way to learn was to take the opportunity to do so while in college.” So far, her favorite class in the department has been Intro to Hispanic Linguistics. After college, she hopes to travel outside the US and continue to learn about her degree. She’s passionate about space exploration and is on the solar car team here at the U.
Kristin Gill, Junior
Kristin is a Political Science major with minors in Spanish Studies and Public Health. She decided to study Spanish in order to connect with more people, which will give her more "opportunities, experiences, lessons, laughs, friends, and family." Her favorite classes have been Human Rights in the Americas and Latinx Immigration on U.S./Mexico Border. Right now she is thinking about pursuing either a law degree or a master’s in political economy of development, public policy, human rights, community health - something along those lines. She encourages other students to create relationships with their professors and TAs, because they helped her to learn so much about who she wants to become.
Andrea Overmoyer-Soto, Junior
Andrea is a nursing major pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and minoring in Spanish Studies. Her passion to study Spanish comes from her motivation to speak to her family (she is half Spanish), community, and eventual patients when she becomes a nurse. Her two favorite courses have been Latino Immigration and Community Engagement, and Modern Latin America. With her passion for helping others and assisting those in underserved communities, she hopes to stay here and become a nurse in Minneapolis. Andrea is grateful she is that she gets to learn at the U and interact with our educators in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies. Her photo was captured in Córdoba, España.
Vanessa Pliego, Senior
Vanessa is graduating in Spring 2021 with a major in Spanish Studies. She chose to be a Spanish major because she wants to be a Spanish or ESL teacher, and hopes to better understand the language both grammatically and culturally. Her favorite courses have been Intro to the Study of Hispanic Literatures, Spanish Composition and Communication, and Latino Immigation and Community Engagement. She is passionate about teaching because it gives her the opportunity to teach kids about her culture, so they can be bilingual and have a lot of opportunities to be successful. She wants to be a role model that her students can look up to. “I grew up in an immigrant family, so I can understand what students go through.”
Cat Clements, Junior
Cat is a junior and majors in Political Science and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies while minoring in Spanish. She chose to study Spanish because she wanted to continue working towards fluency in a way that focuses on more than just grammar and vocabulary. Through the TandemPlus program, Cat has made a new friend from Mexico City who she speaks to every week and plans to meet post-Covid. Her favorite class was Latino Immigration on US/Mexican Border, where she was able to hear directly from organizations on both sides of the border. She is passionate about “challenging and working within preexisting structures to change the face of power and eliminate barriers to access and liberation.” Her future plans are to continue to fundraise women congressional candidates across the country.
Jacob O’Hara, Senior
Jacob is a senior graduating in Spring 2021, and is double majoring in Spanish Studies and Chemistry. Originally a Spanish minor, he decided to extend the minor to a major after learning how much he enjoyed learning and applying the language. His favorite classes were Medical Spanish and Community Health Learning, and the Impact of Globalization in Latin American Discourses. Outside of class, Jacob loves Spanish language books, Latin American music, TV shows from Spain, and frisbee sports. After graduating he will take a gap year before attending medical school, during which he will volunteer and seek experiences where he can use Spanish.