Being surrounded by people who speak a different language while also pursuing an education may seem like a daunting process. However, for native Spanish speakers on campus, it’s a part of daily life.
The camaraderie of the Latino Association combined with the campus’s accepting community eases life for minority native Spanish speaking students.
“I don’t think the small Latinx presence at this school really affects me,” said Melissa Zapata, a student and an active participant in the Latinx Association, “ESU is very accepting and inclusive.”
Many students involved in this club grew up speaking Spanish at home and with their families. Some are even foreign exchange students from countries like Brazil and Argentina.
But, many are also native English speakers who are majoring or minoring in Spanish or who are interested in learning.
“There are a lot of Spanish speakers who aren’t Latinx who I’ve made a lot of relationships with too,” said Zapata, praising the tight-knit community she is a part of.
She went on to explain how close she and her friends are and the various connections she’s been able to make through everyone she’s met.
Native Spanish speaker and Associate Professor of Modern Languages, Esther Daganzo-Cantens, described the Latino Association as “an extremely welcoming and inspirational group of young people.”
Unfortunately, many young speakers are losing the language in an English-driven society. Chantal Fulgencio, a Dominican student who grew up bilingual, has started to lose her native tongue after living on campus for years.
“It really wasn’t that different,” said Fulgencio.
Fulgenico explained her feelings about going to a predominantly English speaking campus:
“I just didn’t speak Spanish, but in that way, I lost the language a little,” said Fulgenico.
She overcame this problem by adding a Spanish minor to her nursing major and becoming more involved within the Latinx community.
“Eventually, courses made me more comfortable to speak Spanish,” she said. “Taking classes and relearning like everything. Even things about my own culture.”
Now on her way to getting her masters, she wished she had started the relearning process earlier.
“Adding the minor has definitely upped my game to find a job,” said Fulgencio. “But the language side of it ended up making such a difference in my life in terms of identity and who I am.”
According to data collected by the 2010 Census, by 2050, 1 in 5 people will be of Hispanic heritage.
“Spanish is all around you. It is the third most spoken language in the world and second in terms of native speakers. That transfers to our campus. Many students are learning Spanish or going back to their Spanish roots,” said Associate Professor of Modern Languages, Annie Mendoza.
Native Spanish speakers on campus seem to find no trouble fitting in and making friends with both students who share their heritage and those who do not share their backgrounds. An ESU Warrior does not let language get in their way, they use it to propel them forward.