By Adriana Ramirez, ’18
Through more than 75 programs, University of Richmond students can study abroad to immerse themselves in a language and culture different from their own. This year, for the first time, they can experience a similar level of cultural immersion without having to leave campus through the Spanish language Living-Learning Community, La Casa Hispánica. “It's like studying abroad without going abroad,” said Ted Peebles, Latin American and Iberian studies professor, and director of the community.
Peebles said he formed the community to “create an environment of diversity across the hall, have Spanish as the main language, and get students involved in activities with cultural learning, in addition to practicing Spanish for those who already are Spanish majors or minors.” Both native and heritage Spanish-speaking students are welcome to participate, and all members of the community commit to speaking only Spanish while in their Lakeview residence hall.
In addition to language immersion, La Casa Hispánica offers students the opportunity to get involved in various multicultural activities, such as enjoying performances at the Modlin Center, afternoons cooking traditional foods at the University’s Center for Culinary Arts, Spanish movie nights, and other teambuilding activities.
Brooke Warner, ’19, who has a double major in political science and journalism and a minor in Spanish, described La Casa Hispánica as a win-win situation for her and her roommate, a student from Honduras. “Her Spanish pronunciation is perfect; however, she is not really good at writing,” she said. “Even though I have made a lot of progress with my pronunciation, my writing has always been better. So I help her with the writing part and she helps me with the speaking part. We both benefit.”
Peebles also described the experience as “a perfect opportunity for native and non-native speakers to blend. They learn from each other’s culture everyday and are able to do it better by the one thing they have in common — Spanish."
La Casa Hispánica is open next year for students who are looking for a culturally rich experience on campus. “I think learning Spanish is a really helpful tool; however, practicing it is really difficult,” said Warner. “You can only practice it during Spanish classes or in small conversations with your professors and it's pretty much the same all the time. The conversation topics are not necessarily about something you would speak about while being in a Spanish-speaking country. I wanted the chance to have the real experience and I think La Casa Hispánica has given it to me.”