Spotlight On Our Majors

Click on each picture to discover more about our Spanish majors.


Uriel Medina Espino ’16

Double major: Spanish and Political Science

Uriel Medina Espino '16Now that you’re graduating and you reflect back on your choice to be a Spanish major, what would you like others to know about studying Spanish?

I feel that I have gained a wide base of knowledge on Spanish and Latin American literature. Complimentarily, the seminars, particularly the Honors seminars, have been rewarding in the depth of material studied, made possible by a rigorous and small classroom environment. The classes have pushed me to develop my analytic and vocabulary capacities in Spanish. Also, the possibilities are endless. Through studying the vast literature of the Spanish-speaking world at Swarthmore, I have also learned about history, politics, and even geography, among other subjects. As a “double major” with Political Science, Swarthmore Spanish has deepened my interests in both studies, particularly where they intersect, which has led to interesting research papers and rich discussions in both of my majors’ classes when the materials inform each other.

What are some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you’ve had in our program?

In addition to the Honors seminars that have definitely been some of the most challenging experiences on this campus, I was afforded the opportunity to participate in a summer session abroad through Swarthmore Spanish at El Colegio de México in Mexico City. I feel that the Spanish classes at Swarthmore prepared me for full immersion in academically rigorous environments abroad. Despite being the only student that did not attend a Mexican university, I was nonetheless able to participate amply and earn excellent marks, which I believe is a testament to the critical analytic skills one can develop learning Spanish at Swarthmore and then apply the skills in settings beyond campus.

What are your plans for the future and how has Spanish helped you prepare for it or how do you see Spanish being part of your future career?

I am deciding between immigration law and graduate programs in International Relations. Spanish will, undoubtedly, play an integral role in whichever path I choose to pursue. The ability to speak Spanish will facilitate translating immigration law adequately to Spanish speaking clients to best serve them, which is in high demand currently in my home state of Mississippi where there is a surge of Spanish speaking immigrants in need of legal help. Were I to work in academia, it would widen my research scope by virtue of understanding literature on subject matters outside of American/English academia. However, I am confident that whatever path I choose, my Spanish vocabulary and analytic skills the Spanish section has helped me develop will augment my work.

Anything else you want to share?

I would like to extend my gratitude to the Spanish section for both exposing me to a literary and cultural world I didn’t know before, and for allowing me to pursue my individual research interests. It has been a personally rewarding experience to explore my Mexican identity by studying cultural works I wasn’t previously aware of, as well as learning about the larger Spanish and Latin American cultural contexts through a literary lens.


Meghann Kasal ’17

Double major: Spanish and Biochemistry

Meghann Kasal '17As you reflect back on your choice to be a Spanish major, what would you like others to know about studying Spanish?

Before coming to Swarthmore, I was unfamiliar with Don Quijote de la Mancha, anthropological perspectives on the diverse cultures of Spain, Salvadorian post-war novelists, and the film industry of Mexico. However, I’ve found that reading, writing, and talking about the art and culture from a different place is made even more interesting in its native language. That’s why I enjoy studying Spanish, because I can immerse myself into literature and conversations in a way that pushes me to be creative and grow as a non-native speaker.

What are some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you’ve had in our program?

As a freshman, I took a class on Don Quijote, which was one of the most intense reading courses I’ve ever had at Swarthmore. Many people spend their lifetimes trying to interpret the famous 16th century Spanish novel, but over the course of one semester, we read both volumes and additional literary criticism, developing our own opinions and critique of it. I found the process challenging, but during my junior semester abroad in Spain I visited Miguel de Cervantes’s Birth House in Alcalá de Henares where I saw illustrations and interpretations of what I had studied two years before.

How are your experiences in our advanced literature courses or seminars and/or studying abroad helping you get the most out of studying at Swarthmore?

While abroad in Madrid the fall of my junior year, I stayed with a host family that helped me develop my confidence and skills in speaking Spanish. Every night we would watch the news and talk about the politics of the ongoing election or pop culture referenced in game shows. Eventually, I felt comfortable enough speaking that my thoughts were in Spanish, too. Now, I’m taking an upper-level seminar on Horacio Castellanos Moya, a contemporary writer from El Salvador, and find that reading, writing, and talking in Spanish has become easier because of the time I spent abroad.

Anything else you want to share?

I am a double major in Biochemistry and Spanish, allowing me to be scientific and creative and giving me a unique perspective in both fields. While I spend many hours a week running experiments in my research lab, I also look forward to reading Spanish novels or watching documentaries and movies each week. For much of my life, I’ve been surrounded by and speaking Spanish, which is why I wanted to continue studying it at Swarthmore, and have developed my language abilities so I feel confident engaging in the literature and culture of Spanish-speaking countries.


Owen Weitzman ’17

Double major: Spanish and Sociology & Anthropology

Owen Weitzman '17As you reflect back on your choice to be a Spanish major, what would you like others to know about studying Spanish?

With regards to my choice to be a Spanish major, I would like others to know that so much of what is essential to me about being a vital, thinking person would have been invisible to me if I hadn’t chosen to study Spanish. Studying Spanish has opened to me a whole universe of art, history, culture, and human experience that I would not have known about if I didn’t study Spanish. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, with even more native speakers than English. Studying Spanish has allowed me to have a much greater perspective on what the world we live in is, because the world is largely Spanish-speaking.

What are some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you’ve had in our program?

Both the most challenging and rewarding experience that I’ve had has been the struggle to improve my language skills in Spanish. It has been a long, difficult process that I have dedicated myself to. Gaining the abilities to express, interpret, and form complex thoughts in Spanish, though challenging, has been incredibly rewarding. Now that I can understand and produce a high level of Spanish, I have the reward of being able to work with the amazing and expansive literary and academic canons that have been produced in the Spanish language.

How do you see Spanish being part of your future career? or How are your experiences in our advanced literature courses/and or studying abroad helping you get the most out of studying at Swarthmore?

I am a double major in Anthropology and Spanish, and the two are extremely complementary to each other. For one thing, as a student of Anthropology, just the fact of speaking Spanish in and of itself gives me access to an enormous amount of scholarship, people, and information of interest for that field of study. Secondly, the advanced Spanish courses that I’ve taken at Swarthmore have included a lot of material that is directly of interest to both of my majors: we often work with theoretical texts in Spanish, drawing from anthropologists, critical theorists, philosophers, historians etc. Studying in the Spanish department gives me the chance to practice and develop my capacity for the critical thinking that is fundamental to any academic field. My studies in Spanish are fascinating in and of themselves, so it’s just a great bonus that they complement my studies in Anthropology as well. I often feel that my classes from both departments are in dialogue with each other, and studying both together, to me, makes each one individually more satisfying.

Anything else you want to share?

I really recommend studying Spanish. The program is excellent, the language itself is highly important on a global scale, and it can open you up to whole worlds of people and ideas!


Jennifer Beltrán ’18

Double major: Spanish and Economics

Jennifer Beltran '18Why are you choosing to study Spanish?

I am choosing to study Spanish because nothing makes me feel more connected with my culture and identity than reading, writing, and speaking my native language. Spanish isn’t about the language itself, but about the diverse cultures behind it. I love immersing myself in learning about the diaspora of all that comprises my latinidad especially after never having explored it before I came to Swarthmore.

What are some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you’ve had in our program so far?

Perhaps the most rewarding experience I’ve had is the ability to take courses by a diverse pool of professors. It’s extremely insightful to engage in discussion with my Spanish professors who are from all over Latin America, Spain, and the United States, and therefore unique in their own ways. I come from a region of the country that is predominantly Mexican, so it’s interesting to study Spanish through a variety of cultures and perspectives. The most challenging experience I’ve had so far is narrowing down the courses and seminars I want to take for the remainder of my time here – it’s almost impossible to choose.

How are your experiences in our courses helping you get the most out of studying at Swarthmore? Do you think that the skills and the knowledge you’re gaining in our program will be useful for your future career? How?

Being a Spanish major at Swarthmore has allowed me to develop critical thinking and communication skills in the second most spoke language in the country, which is an extremely valuable asset. I know I am getting the most out my education here through my Spanish courses because of the pleasure and contentment I get from studying the material alongside my peers.  Although I am unsure about my post-graduation plans, I know when I leave Swarthmore that being fluent in Spanish will benefit me tremendously in a wide range of career fields.


Sonja Dahl ’18

Double major: Spanish and Sociology & Anthropology 

Sonja Dahl '18As you reflect back on your choice to be a Spanish major, what would you like others to know about studying Spanish?

When you study Spanish, you’re not only committing your time and energy to a language, but also to a wide variety of cultures, literatures, and histories. Often, people don’t expect that variety coming in because they’re used to language learning classes, and it’s something to keep in mind.

What are some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you’ve had in our program?

It was challenging to jump into reading and writing academically in Spanish in my first semester – even after taking AP Spanish language in high school, I didn’t have any experience with scholarly texts. This lack of experience made my first research paper for the department difficult. Still, it was gratifying to finish it (with plenty of support) and have a final product I could be proud of. In general, it’s been very rewarding to see how much my academic reading and writing skills have grown, especially with the help of Writing Associates in my first two semesters.

How are your experiences in our advanced literature courses or seminars, and/or studying abroad helping you get the most out of studying at Swarthmore?

I really enjoyed the advanced literature courses I’ve taken–they’re a great way to study literature along with a little visual art / film and history, as well as keeping up language skills. As a double major, these classes also work well as a complement to my Sociology courses to give me a variety of subject matter and approaches to culture. I’m looking forward to studying abroad!


María Castaneda Soria ’18

Special major: Spanish and Peace & Conflict Studies

Maria Castaneda Soria '18As you reflect back on your choice to be a Spanish major, what would you like others to know about studying Spanish?

When I first got to Swarthmore, I was not planning on being a Spanish major because I had a narrow view of what it meant to study Spanish. I thought studying Spanish would limit my focus to literature and not much else. However, I found that the material I studied in Spanish taught me to think critically about issues that I care about from a different lens.

As a Peace and Conflict studies special major with Spanish, I have been able to study questions on human rights, social justice, and politics through the literature and cinema produced in Spanish-speaking countries.

What are some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you’ve had in our program?

The most challenging part of being in the program is the rigor of the program and the high expectations my professors have for me, but it’s not as bad as it may sound! My professors are wonderful and have helped me every step of the way to ensure that I would thrive in the program. Working with and getting to know the Spanish faculty has been the most rewarding experience. The program is small and I found that we form a nice community among each other.


Jeremy Seitz-Brown ’18

Double major: Spanish and Political Science

Jeremy Seitz-Brown '18As you reflect back on your choice to be a Spanish major, what would you like others to know about studying Spanish?

Studying Spanish engages the whole mind and is a great way to develop a whole host of intellectual and academic skills simultaneously. Through my Spanish classes, I’ve been able to sharpen my critical thinking, better my understanding of the Spanish-speaking world, improve my writing in both Spanish and English, and learn about literary and cultural theories—all while constantly improving my proficiency in the language. I didn’t have a strong background in English or Spanish literature before this semester and didn’t think it was a main interest of mine, but in my Intro to Latin American Literature course this semester, I gained a deep appreciation for the insights of literary theory and the role that literature plays in shaping politics and culture. While challenging, reading the works of brilliant writers like Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez was often exhilarating and pure joy. I initially started studying Spanish with the simple goal of being able to communicate with more people, but I’ve learned so much more along the way that I never anticipated.

Anything else you want to share?

I think Spanish is a great subject to study in conjunction with another major or minor. I’m pursuing a political science honors major and a Spanish major/honors minor and have already benefitted thus far from the ways that the two subject areas inform each other. Through my work in both departments, I developed an interest in Latin American politics that I may not have discovered otherwise. Since I may work with Spanish-speaking communities in my intended career in urban politics and public policy, I’m also excited by the prospect of achieving a high level of proficiency in Spanish to complement my knowledge and skills in political science.