Every student on campus at Shippensburg University knows what it is like to be given assigned readings and lengthy papers. Few know the feeling of having to complete readings and assignments in a different language.
For Rebecca Mandell, a senior Spanish and secondary education major, this is an everyday reality.
Not only does she have to write papers and read novels in Spanish, but she is required to conduct discussions about various topics with her fellow classmates.
Mandell discovered her passion for the Spanish culture and language in high school where she studied it for multiple years. Upon acceptance to SU, she immediately knew that teaching Spanish was the perfect career path for her.
Not only does she have an interest in speaking Spanish, but she enjoys educating children as well. She hopes that teaching Spanish will help children succeed throughout their lives.
“Spanish is extremely prevalent throughout the United States in today’s society. It is beneficial to learn the language in order to communicate more effectively,” Mandell said.
Learning to excel and become fluent in a second language has presented Mandell with a few difficulties that she has been forced to overcome.
The speaking aspect of being a Spanish major has been the hardest challenge to surpass. This includes attempting to keep up with the countless vocabulary words she strives to commit to memory each day.
She has perfected a few techniques in order to assist in learning how to speak Spanish more proficiently.
“I keep a vocab diary that includes new words I learn throughout the day. I make speaking Spanish a lifestyle and end up speaking more Spanish than English throughout the day,” Mandell said.
Even with the challenges she faces, Mandell would never dream of changing her major.
She said being able to learn the different aspects of the language and apply it to everyday life is extremely fulfilling.
She now is able to express herself to two separate cultures as well as learn new things from a more diverse group of people.
Mandell has also taken on the presidency of the Spanish club this semester. She has learned to balance the continuous stream of school work while coordinating club activities.
As president, she is in charge of organizing and presenting events, booking appointments and brainstorming new club activities.
The most important part of the club though is its members.
“I just like to make sure the members get a lot out of the time they put into the club,” Mandell said.
“I want to make it as beneficial, educational and fun as I can so that the members look forward to coming every week,” Mandell said.
Mandell is able to balance her schoolwork with her extracurricular activities because her clubs essentially supplement her major.
They are all Latino-based so she can apply what she has learned in class. She said it helps her stay in Spanish mode throughout the entire day and gives her the opportunity to explore the Spanish culture more in depth.
Amidst her busy schedule, Mandell is also preparing to study abroad in the spring of 2013.
According to the Institute of International Education (IIE) almost 3,000 students in the U.S. studied abroad for academic credit during the 2009-2010 school year.
In order to study abroad, there are many steps students have to take in preparation. Mandell is busy completing these steps that include picking a study abroad program, getting a passport, getting a visa as well as mentally preparing to leave family and friends for an entire semester.
Although this aspect of studying abroad is often hard to deal with, Mandell realizes that immersing herself in the Spanish culture will drastically help her with her oral proficiency and vocabulary. She said she is not afraid to make mistakes, knowing she will learn that much more by doing so.
She had some tips to give to those who are either majoring in a language or hoping to learn one.
Mandell said the most important advice she can give is to participate in club events.
Many of the language clubs partake in laid back discussions where members can help each other and give advice.
As for a basic piece of advice for all students, Mandell had another suggestion.
“Students need to learn to approach their professors. It’s extremely beneficial to confront them if you are having problems. They are only there to help. Most importantly, students need to get involved with clubs and activities around campus. It will be very helpful when they try to get a job after graduating,” Mandell said.
Mandell has taken on a lot of responsibilities this semester and is excited to have the opportunity to study abroad in the spring.
Although many students have trouble becoming proficient in only one language, Mandell is going above and beyond to be able to effectively communicate among two very different cultures.