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Department ofModern Languages and Literatures

What students have to say

Jacqueline Ramírez - LEAD Scholar

Jacqueline Ramírez '22

"By the end of my first year at SCU, I decided to add a Spanish Studies major because the language has always been a big component of my identity as a First-Generation student. Spanish was the first language I learned and continues to be my primary language at home, so my Spanish classes became a way for me to bring a little piece of my dearly-missed home life to campus."

Gloria Sevilla headshot with celebrate first gen around her picture

Gloria Sevilla '20

"During my second year at Santa Clara, I was feeling out of place in college, thus I longed to rejuvenate my passion for learning. Declaring a Spanish Major is the best decision I could have made. Not only did my motivation for school re-ignite, but I became more knowledgeable about the world around me, wiser in my thinking and I have met incredibly welcoming individuals. The Modern Languages Department has made me feel at home while at SCU, a place where my identity as a First-Generation Mexican-American College student was finally valued and appreciated."

Anna Mount

Anna Mount '23

"I was very happy to have the opportunity to improve my Japanese skills at Santa Clara. I used to go to Japanese school on Saturdays in elementary school, but ever since I stopped I was not able to really improve my reading and writing skills. While I practice speaking Japanese at home with my mother and sister, I was always hoping to gain an ability to read and write more advanced literature.

This is why I was so excited to take JAPN 102 at SCU. Not only was I able to work on my reading and writing, but I had a really fun time with my friends learning Japanese together. It was encouraging working with other students that were passionate about learning, and JAPN 102 was definitely one of my favorite classes at SCU so far!

I plan to take a minor in International Business, and I hope to incorporate my Japanese skills into my passion for business. Someday I would love to work in Japan, so I am striving to gain an even higher level of proficiency."

A person sitting beside a camel, wearing sunglasses and headscarf.

Maria Khouri-Haddad '19

“I was sent to Morocco as a Global Fellow to work with a social enterprise promoting women artistry. I was based in Marrakech at the time and was pleasantly surprised to find that most people there spoke French fluently in addition to Arabic and Berber. I imagine the experience would have been a lot less productive had I not been well-versed in the French language.”



Sarah Benmalek '24

"My heritage languages are French and Moroccan, and I’ve been speaking French at home since I was little, but my writing abilities and grammar needed some work over the years of no longer taking it in school. It’s been a great experience to take French courses at SCU and rebuild the foundations I need to fluently speak French. The classes are always so interesting and the writing we practice has already bettered my grammar and vocabulary. Being from a Francophone family, with most of them living in Morocco, I’ve always wanted to spend a few years immersing myself in France and its culture, as my parents did for 15 years. In my French course I’m taking, we are reading different stories from Francophone countries and I’m so excited to be able to read stories from Morocco, ones I had never heard of! SCU is truly aiding me in my desire to better my French and at the same time have fun and learn about exciting narratives in class."

Francesca Hellebrandt '18

"Growing up in a bilingual, German-American household, German came naturally as a second language. From ages 4-15, I attended Saturday morning German classes at the South Bay German School to supplement my learning with weekly culture and conversation classes. These classes provided a foundation for my interest in the language early on, and ultimately, drove me to study the language as a double major at Santa Clara University (SCU). During my time at SCU, I had the unique privilege of getting to learn the language from my father, Professor Hellebrandt, who works in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. His courses on German Conversation and Media, combined with my summer study abroad trip to Freiburg in 2015, made my German language experience at Santa Clara one that I will always treasure."

Elena Shaheen '22

"Language is a “bridge” that brings different cultures together. My heritage language is Arabic, and getting the chance to learn this language at SCU has meant so much to me and my family. I am now able to converse with my grandparents, which has connected me to my culture and my family on a deeper level. Learning Arabic at SCU also gives you the opportunity to learn more about the history, culture, and food of the Middle East, which provides a holistic understanding of the language and Arab traditions. I currently volunteer with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) where I support refugees from the Middle East as they resettle in San Jose, CA, which would not be possible without understanding the Arabic language and culture. With my Arabic knowledge, I hope to one day travel back to my homeland, Palestine, and surrounding Arab countries to provide dental care to refugees that do not have access to healthcare. Learning the Arabic language and culture has allowed me to connect with my roots and has given me meaningful opportunities that I would not otherwise have if it wasn’t for studying Arabic at SCU."

Lucas Voron '23

"My heritage language is French, and incorporating this language into my studies at Santa Clara University has meant a lot for me. My grandparents on my mother's side of the family are very proud of me for continuing my study of the French language because they do not speak English. Since French is the only way I communicate with half of my family, I think it is very important for me to continue learning more about my language and the incredible culture that surrounds it.

My French culture and ideas class taught me a lot about Francophone countries and regions even outside of France that have elements of French culture. I have always planned on living in Paris at some point in my life, but this course taught me that French is a global language that I can use to my advantage all around the world. In the future, if I want to experience another way of life while developing my French skills, I can choose to go to a number of different countries.

I was surprised to learn so much about the different ways that France has spread its language and influence in other parts of the world. French is also one of the top 5 languages spoken across the globe because of this! In my research for my C&I class I had the opportunity to learn about this influence of France on the Morrocan education system that my grandparents experienced during their lives."

Ellie Bollard '20

"As one of the SCU Global Fellows, I spent two months this summer in Bolivia working with ReVerdeSer, an NGO focused on sustainable farming and holistic resource management. Most of the people we worked with only spoke Spanish, so it forced me to practice and improve my language skills as well as pick up the local dialect. Overall, it was a very successful project and through our efforts we were able to secure funding for ReVerdeSer. Being fully immersed in a Spanish speaking country and working in a professional setting with locals has been an invaluable experience. At first I was nervous to live in a country with Spanish as the primary language, but SCU prepared me well and this experience strengthened my Spanish skills more than I could have imagined."

Parwana Khazi '20

"As an SCU Student Ambassador, I have the opportunity to speak with prospective students and families through panels, tours, and other admissions work. We normally offer tours in English as there has not been much of a demand for other languages -- however, there were families requesting a tour in Spanish at our annual Open House this past October, which caught the office off guard at first. Although I’m not a native speaker, I was asked to do the tour and I accepted -- what is truly the point of learning a language if you are not willing to use it when it is really needed? This was my first tour in Spanish and needless to say, it was not perfect. However, speaking with the families afterward, I truly understood the importance of knowing a language well enough to communicate with its speakers. I have an accent, sometimes mess up my verb tenses, and don't know every word, but I was able to be of service to these families in a manner that made them feel heard and at ease. For this, I am forever grateful."

Samantha Steinbrecher '21

"I am studying abroad in Nantes, France for Fall semester. It has been a wonderful experience so far! I am in an immersion program, which means that all of our classes are in French and there is a large emphasis on learning about and engaging with the local culture. Although it has been a challenge to adjust to speaking, listening, and thinking in a new language, it has quickly become normalized. I'm living with a French family, and I have had many opportunities to try new things! My host mom is a crepe-maker, so I frequently try her new recipes and occasionally try to make them on my own (hint: they're a lot harder to make than they seem!). All in all, studying abroad has been a rewarding and enlightening experience and I am trying my best to enjoy every moment."

Courtney Malecki '20

"My favorite part of studying abroad in Paris was living with my host family. They pushed me to speak more French every day and they truly treated me like family. My host sister also showed me around Paris and walked me to class the first day to make sure I knew where to go. My experience would not have been the same without them!"



Francesca Hellebrandt '18

"This year’s Summer Study Abroad trip to Freiburg, Germany, proved to be yet another success! For more than 10 years, the Freiburg summer study abroad program has offered Santa Clara students the opportunity to gain insight into the historical, cultural, and social aspects of the German-speaking world, all within the span of 4 weeks. Nestled at the foot of the Black Forest mountains, Germany’s Green City with its historical monuments and ecological policy offers a classic blend of old and new. With generous support from the Geoff and Josie Fox German fund, the students – Hannah Buck, Luke Gezovich, Jordan Dawkins (pictured) and Hudda Navaid (pictured) – not only enjoyed the intensive language courses, but also undertook numerous excursions in Freiburg and the surrounding region that shares a border with France and Switzerland. For Jordan Dawkins, the main highlight of the program was that it served as “a great hub for people to experience different cultures that even extend past Germany’s borders.” Not only was she afforded the opportunity to meet many like-minded people while immersed in a new culture, but was given a summer that she will never forget."

Julieta is interviewing a customer on his farm in Tlaxcala

Julieta Perales '18

"The Global Social Benefit Fellowship first appealed to me because of its focus on action research.  This meant getting out into the field, in real-life situations and conducting research that would help my host social enterprise achieve their mission of creating value from waste.  This summer I spent seven weeks in Mexico and Nicaragua studying the data collection and impact monitoring procedures of Sistema Biobolsa.  Sistema Biobolsa manufactures biodigesters that allow small and medium scale farmers to convert animal waste into biogas and an organic fertilizer.  I had an amazing time in the Mexico City office familiarizing myself with the enterprise’s operations, interviewing customers in the field in Mexico and Nicaragua, meeting new people, and immersing myself in the Spanish language.  From this experience, I have learned that awareness of cultural context is essential for creating scalable and meaningful impact.  For this reason, I encourage all students who have the opportunity to get out into the world and learn about a different culture.  Experiences like this are extremely helpful in  shaping your perspectives and priorities as you move on in life and decide what it is you want to do.”

A person standing by the water with city skyline in background.

Max Zhang '24

"Growing up in a Chinese household, the culture was very prominent in everything I did. My mother and father both immigrated to the US in the 80s, leaving their parents and families behind. Most of my extended family can’t conversate in English too well, so learning Chinese has been a great way for me to stay connected.

However, I didn’t always enjoy learning Chinese. I was put through Chinese afterschool during elementary school. I despised this because, to me, it was simply extra hours of school. I stopped attending Chinese afterschool in 6th grade and my parents added Chinese school on the weekends to compensate for this lost learning opportunity, however, I also stopped that by 8th grade. I was thoroughly tired of Chinese.

After joining the SCU community, I found myself longing for a new skill to add to my new journey at the Leavey School of Business. Instead of looking at Chinese as another class, I took it as not only a career opportunity, but as a life opportunity. The ability to speak another language fluently would allow me to meet millions of new people I would’ve never thought I could, thus opening up doors to a variety of new careers. SCU has resurrected my passion for language learning and set me on a path with infinitely more roads to take."

Francesca D’Urzo '24

"As a child, I grew up only speaking Italian with my Papà, but my grammar and writing abilities definitely needed some improvement. I was always sad that my middle school and high school did not offer any Italian classes which is why I was so eager to enroll in Santa Clara’s Modern Languages Department. The professors are so helpful and encouraging, and I am now double majoring in both English and Italian thanks to the program! Learning Italian at SCU has truly helped me further my understanding of my heritage and has immensely developed my communication skills. The SCU Modern Languages Department has made me feel so at home in their courses and it has been amazing to be able to learn with people who share similar heritage backgrounds as you. I am so excited to continue learning Italian with this inclusive program!"

A woman in a red top smiling outdoors.

Stephanie Chung '23

"My parents enrolled me in a K-12 Japanese immersion program by chance. Little did I know, that small decision would be one of the best things to happen to me in my entire life. While it is not my heritage language, I have a deep connection to Japanese and Japan's culture due to my previous 13 years of schooling. It would be a shame to let my language skills grow rusty from disuse, so I'm currently pursuing a Japanese minor to keep putting them into practice. And not only that, there is still so much for me to learn as well. I couldn't be more grateful for the chance to do so at Santa Clara.

In the future, I'd like to use my Japanese skills both in the workplace and in my everyday life whether it's for communicating with overseas clients or simply having a chat with my Japanese-speaking friends. I've grown to love learning Japanese and I can't wait to continue my language journey."

A person smiling in an outdoor setting with a pergola.

Mitsuki Tanaka '23

"I appreciate being able to learn my heritage language at SCU. Growing up in Tokyo until I was ten years old and moving to the US has really slowed down being able to learn Japanese. As a native Japanese speaker I was also always reluctant to take a Japanese class and I was not planning to take one in college until my friend suggested to take it with her.

When I had the opportunity to take JAPN 102, I was beyond excited to be able to speak, write and read Japanese again for a class. Since I do not do much to maintain my Japanese, the Japanese class gave me an opportunity not only to practice my Japanese but to also learn Japanese culture in a different way than I am normally exposed to.

It was also wonderful to meet other students who were interested in learning Japanese and the culture. Speaking and interacting with other students made the class very fun! I am very glad I had the chance to take JAPN 102 because I was able to improve my Japanese tremendously while having fun with the other students that I was able to meet."