Meet Our Majors

Meet some of our Spanish Studies majors.

Jazmin Calderon-Arreola ’21

Hometown: Portland, OR
Major: Spanish Studies; Minors: public health, kinesiology

What was your motivation to major in Spanish Studies? 

As a Mexican-American and a Spanish heritage speaker, it's important to me to continue studying in Spanish since language is a big part of my culture. Spanish is also a beautiful language and I wanted to expand my overall mastery of it by continuing to speak, read, and write in Spanish in a formal setting. I aim to use my Spanish major and my minors to serve the Latinx population, and I believe that the major is a great complement to any other academic field.

Can you describe your working relationships with your Spanish professors? Are there any standout classes you’ve taken?

All of the Spanish professors are amazing. They are passionate about what they teach, care about their students, and are always glad to help. The professors actively engage students with the material, encourage critical thinking, and create an environment where everyone feels comfortable. I've enjoyed all of the Spanish classes I've taken at Oxy, but the class that stood out the most for me is "Introduction to Pre-Columbian and Colonial Latin American Literature and Civilization" with Professor [Salvador] Fernandez. It was great to focus on and learn about the literature and civilization of native people in the Americas, which is unfortunately often neglected.

Did you study abroad? How did it complement and/or enhance your major course of study?

I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain the fall semester of my junior year in a Spanish literature program. Studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country gave me the opportunity to use and further develop my Spanish skills, learn new vocabulary, and gain a deeper appreciation for dialectal differences. Not only was it interesting to hear the dialectal differences, but I could connect what I was hearing to what I learned in my linguistics courses. 

What are your post-Oxy ambitions and how has the liberal arts approach helped to shape these ambitions?

I plan to pursue a master's degree in public health to help improve the health of the low-income and BIPOC community. Oxy's liberal arts education has shown me the interconnectedness of different disciplines, such as the relation between health and social justice, and has prepared me to think critically when solving problems.

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in Spanish Studies?

The students and professors in the Spanish department are very friendly and supportive. Don't be afraid to reach out if you are interested and want to know more. The Spanish department encompasses a lot more than just language classes, offering a variety of courses in literature, linguistics, and culture, so be open to explore different courses since there's something for different interests.


Noah Yee Yick ’22

Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Majors: Spanish Literature, Diplomacy & World Affairs

What was your motivation to major in Spanish Studies?

I spent six years living abroad in both Mexico City and Guatemala City, where not only the Spanish language but also Latin American culture was ingrained. I knew I was going to major in Spanish from the beginning, but it was sort of “just because” I was already fluent. But after my first two semesters I knew I was majoring in Spanish because it was one of my passions, not “just because.” I began to truly enjoy Spanish literature (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and of course, Cervantes), which is something I never could have imagined, and I unearthed a passion for sociolinguistics and tying together language with the sociopolitical dynamics in the United States.

Can you describe your working relationships with your Spanish professors?

I truly adore all of my Spanish professors and the entire department! From Cervantine literature classes with Professor [Felisa] Guillén to sociolinguistic classes with Professor [Mariška] Bolyanatz Brown. I view them more as mentors and role models than as just my professors. They set high expectations and make you push yourself, but it all seems simple and fun with their constant support and encouragement.

Have you taken part in any student research opportunities at Oxy?

I am hoping to do some sociolinguistic research and analysis with Professor Bolyanatz regarding linguistic attitudes towards Spanish in the U.S. (more specifically, in Los Angeles). I don’t have anything set in stone yet, but I feel prepared to do research on my own and know that my professors will always be available to help.

Are you planning to study abroad?

I was supposed to study abroad in Madrid this fall, but unfortunately I was not able to [due to the pandemic]. Because I am double majoring in Spanish and Diplomacy & World Affairs, I do not think I will be able to study abroad before I graduate. Spanish comps are in the fall and DWA comps are in the Spring. While I know that adjustments could be made to accomodate this conflict, I do not think I would be able to handle both comps in one semester. I am planning on applying for grants to do research abroad and in that way get a little taste of what it would have been like.

What do you find most compelling about studying Spanish? 

Studying Spanish at Oxy has shown me that Spanish is a lot more than just what you learn in K-12. I never thought literature could be so powerful, but through various classes at Oxy I have had my eyes opened as to how impactful it can be. I feel so lucky to have learned about sociolinguistics as well. I feel like it is the perfect combination of the things I am most passionate about: Spanish, equity, and diplomacy.

What are your post-Oxy ambitions and how has the liberal arts approach helped to shape these ambitions? 

I have no idea what I want to do, but I feel like the world is my oyster. The liberal arts approach has provided me with such a broad base of knowledge and a strong ability to take a critical perspective on so many different things that I really feel prepared to pursue whatever comes my way. The Spanish major itself opens up so many doors for me. One of the many “paths” I have imagined is living in Madrid after I graduate, taking classes to get my master’s in Spanish at the University of Madrid, and then coming back to the U.S. and pursuing a PhD in Spanish to become a professor (maybe at Oxy, who knows!).

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in Spanish Studies? 

Take classes with an open mind and a willingness to be taught. The entire department has so much knowledge and expertise that they share and make sure you hold onto. I think most importantly, ask questions, reach out to your professors, and build relationships with them and other Spanish majors. The Spanish community at Oxy is so fun to be a part of. Lastly, don’t make your decision after taking one class. The classes I have enjoyed most have been the upper-level courses (300+) that are no longer focused on grammar, spelling, etc. but instead delve into really interesting topics.


Sofie Brown ’21

Hometown: Davis, CA
Major: Spanish Studies; Minor: history

What was your motivation to major in Spanish Studies? Was there a specific inspirational moment or experience?

When I entered Oxy I knew that I wanted to major or minor in Spanish Studies, and after taking my first 300-level course—a small class of 9 students—I had such an amazing experience, which confirmed that I wanted to keep taking Spanish courses. Ever since my second semester freshman year I started referring to myself as a Spanish Studies major and then I formally declared in my sophomore year.

Can you describe your working relationships with your Spanish professors? Are there any standout classes you’ve taken?

The Spanish professors are all so amazing and I feel fortunate to have taken a class from almost every one. I really enjoy going to office hours and talking with my professors. The commitment that Oxy faculty have for their students is incredible. For example, one professor worked with me one-on-one to improve my writing and helped me develop more eloquent and formal theses and topic sentences. In another class, when I didn't understand one of the literary theories we discussed, my professor held office hours for me on a Saturday!

Two standout classes I've taken are SPAN 301: “Intro to Pre-Colombian and Colonial Latin American Literature and Civilization” and SPAN 342: “Spanish in the United States.” In SPAN 301 I learned important themes and histories, such as racial hierarchies and political tensions, that prepared me for future Spanish and history courses. In SPAN 342, I learned how to differentiate various linguistic features of Spanish-speakers as well as the mechanisms that define Spanglish.

Have you taken part in any student research opportunities at Oxy?

I took SPAN 342 with Professor [Mariška] Bolyanatz Brown, and we did field work in Boyle Heights and the Salvadoran Corridor to compile data on LAVS (Los Angeles Vernacular Spanish), Salvadorian Spanish and Mexcian Spanish. I had such a great time that I volunteered to help organize part of our class’s data and later contributed to an annotated bibliography. I believe Professor Bolyanatz Brown is anticipating publishing our class's findings. In the spring semester I plan to do an Honors Thesis under the guidance of Professor [Viviana] MacManus on the legacy of Eva Perón and the controversies regarding her ability to be labeled a feminist.

Did you study abroad? How did it complement and/or enhance your college education?

In Spring 2020, I went abroad to Buenos Aires, Argentina and had an amazing 2.5 weeks in the city. However, with COVID-19, our in-person program was cancelled so I returned and completed a virtual semester through CIEE. My CIEE semester, also in a liberal arts format, completely shifted my focus to Argentina and Southern Cone studies. I found that for some of the themes I learned about for an Argentine context, I had already received some knowledge and practice in my classes at Oxy.

What are your post-Oxy ambitions?

With the support of the National & International Fellowship Office, my Fulbright adviser (Professor Raul Villa), and my Spanish adviser (Professor Bolyanatz Brown), I applied for an ETA position in Uruguay. Regardless of whether I receive a Fulbright, I intend to spend a gap year teaching English in a Spanish-speaking country and then apply for a PhD program in Latin American literature and culture. My experience at Oxy, working and learning under such amazing professors, makes me want to attend graduate school with the hopes that I will be able to work in a similar liberal arts environment in the future.

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in Spanish Studies?

I would encourage all students to take advantage of office hours and take a variety of courses offered by the department!


Lana Parke-Reimer ’22

Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Majors: Spanish Studies, cognitive science; Minor: linguistics

What was your motivation to major in Spanish Studies? Was there a specific inspirational moment or experience?

As soon as I started learning Spanish in seventh grade I was hooked and wanted to continue learning up to fluency. I took Spanish throughout highschool and pretty much knew I wanted to major in it when I came to Oxy. I also was interested in Oxy because it was in Los Angeles, where there are a lot of Spanish speakers and opportunities to use the language. The Spanish classes I have taken at Oxy have been really thought provoking and continued to fuel my motivation to study Spanish.

Can you describe your working relationships with your Spanish professors? Are there any standout classes you’ve taken?

I have built close relationships with all of the Spanish professors that I’ve had. Two of my first professors actually retired but I still like to keep in touch with them. My first professor for both semesters freshman year, Adelaida Lopez, was very influential for me. I remember analyzing Latin American literature like Cien Años de Soledad and La Casa de los Espíritus in depth and it was very enriching and intellectually stimulating. I also studied Spanish literature and films with Professor [Robert] Ellis, who always guided our discussions with thought provoking questions. I would come out of the classes with so many interesting ideas about how the works reflected society and interacted with history. I also have taken linguistics-based Spanish classes with Professors [Mike] Shelton and [Mariška] Bolyanatz Brown such as the “History of the Spanish Language” and “Spanish in the United States.” As a linguistics minor it has been really cool to see how these two interests of mine intersect.

What do you find most compelling about studying Spanish?

I love being a Spanish major because unlike Spanish classes in high school where you are mostly just trying to get better at speaking, reading, writing and listening to the language, once you get to the 300 level classes at Oxy you get to talk about relevant societal and historical issues while speaking in Spanish. For people whose first language is not Spanish, there are always new things to learn about the language and even though I like to call myself fluent, there are always ways I can improve. I also love that at Oxy you can explore different facets of Spanish, specifically linguistics, literature and culture. At first I was very into the humanities-based classes where we discussed literature, plays and movies, but I later realized that I am also super into the linguistics and more scienc-y side as well.

What are your post-Oxy ambitions and how has the liberal arts approach helped to shape these ambitions?

One career pathway that I’ve considered is being a Spanish teacher or professor. I worked as a camp counselor at a Spanish immersion summer camp and also volunteered at the Spanish community literacy center at Occidental to get a sense of what teaching is like. I am also considering going into a linguistics-related career like speech language pathology, but my background in Spanish would also benefit this career because it gives me another linguistic perspective and helps me communicate with a wider variety of people.

Do you have any advice for a student considering a major in Spanish Studies?

My advice would be to think deeply about the literature, plays and films you read and watch for class because in-class discussions can be super fun! I would also suggest taking some of the linguistics-based Spanish courses. Professors Shelton and Bolyanatz Brown both are very skilled in what they teach and the classes are very interesting. Also, Spanish is the only language at Oxy that has these linguistic overlap courses. I also recommend going to see the peer language advisors! I started working as one this semester and many students come to chat in Spanish and work on their conversational skills, but you can also come to get help on understanding readings or writing essays, among other things.

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