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Chancellor’s Awards at ROMS

In this episode we talk about the experiences of three of our students. Oscar, Kelsey, and Meghan are the three senior students who won the Sterling A. Stoudemire Award for Excellence in Spanish, the Jacques Hardré Undergraduate Award for Excellence in French, and the Camões Prize for excellence in Portuguese in 2022. These awards are the ROMS department’s Chancellor’s Awards, and they are presented to students who demonstrate academic excellence and outstanding work in their field.


H: Host

O: Oscar

K: Kelsey

M: Meghan


*Intro music”

H: This is ROMS podcast, a space we created to host the voices and stories of the amazing people working and studying at the Department of Romance Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. Here, there are always wonderful things happening, people working for the community, faculty achieving outstanding academic and creative goals, and students who are willing and eager to learn about the languages and cultures around the world. In this episode, we will be listening to the stories of some of the Chancellor Award recipients.


O: [00:00:16-00:00:42] Okay, so, uh, my name is Oscar la Sierra. I’m originally from Cuba. I moved to the United States on 2015 sitting around there. Um, uh, my family currently lives in Miami, Florida, like my parents and my brother. I came to you and C as a transfer student in 2018, so I’ve been here since then. Majoring in biology and Hispanic literature and cultures.

K: [00:00:15-00:00:34] my name is Kelsey Rapp and I am from Alpharetta, Georgia, which is a suburb outside of Atlanta. And coming to you and see, I had thought that I might study journalism, but after a few years taking different classes, I ended up deciding to double major in public policy and French. And I now also have a minor in entrepreneurship.

M: [00:00:09-00:00:25] my name is Meghan Foster. I’m a Portuguese major. I’m a senior here at UNC. Going to be graduating this May. I have a minor in chemistry and I. I grew up in Angola overseas, and that was kind of sparked my interest in studying Portuguese.

H: Oscar, Kelsey, and Meghan are the three senior students who wonTHE STERLING A. STOUDEMIRE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN SPANISH, the JACQUES HARDRÉ UNDERGRADUATE AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN FRENCH, and theTHE CAMÕES PRIZE IN PORTUGUESE in 2022. These awards are the ROMs department’s Chancellor awards, and they are presented to students who demonstrate academic excellence and outstanding work in their field. Even though all three were able to excel in the study of language and culture, Oscar and Kelsey didn’t originally plan to study their language

K: [00:00:57-00:01:30] I came into college knowing that I wanted to at least minor in French. I have studied French since seventh grade at the school that I was at. You had to choose either French, Latin or Spanish. And it’s super interesting because at first I had thought I’ll for sure take Spanish or Latin. Those like come the easiest to me. And then I took a few weeks of French, just kind of an introductory course and my professor had or teacher at the time had said, I think he’d really enjoy French. I know it might not be the easiest one, but I think that you should try it. And so against my initial wishes, I was like, okay, I’ll try French. And here we are so many years later.

O: [00:02:46-00:03:33] So when I came here to USC first I was only a biology major, but like seeing how much I didn’t know. I mean, I would even imagine how many people speak Spanish, at least here in Chapel Hill. So that got me by surprise. And then I always had the idea in the back of my head that like when I go to like in the future when I work, like me saying like, oh yeah, I speaking Spanish, I don’t think that’s enough. So I want like a validation, like a title or something. I say, Yeah, he actually like speaking Spanish. He knows what he’s doing. So I started as a Hispanic minor, I think studies Hispanic studies minor. But then I realized that I’m going to do maybe like three or four more classes and I’m like, you know, like I saw you do, mayor, so I, I decided to do the mayor

H: Meghan had a bit of a different experience. As a native speaker who grew up in Angola, she decided to major in Portuguese from the beginning in order to get to know her language in a new way.

M: [00:00:48-00:02:08] I grew up overseas in Angola. Angola is a former Portuguese colony. And so there’s that sort of historical influence there. And so the national language is actually Portuguese. And my family worked there and I lived there for 18 years before moving back. And so I grew up speaking Portuguese outside the home. We spoke English at home, but I spoke Portuguese with everyone else. But I never studied it academically. I’d always gone to school, did home school in English. The local schools weren’t always like recognized here in the States. And so it would have been hard to transition back to college if I’d gone to a local school. And so my parents kept me in an English school. So when I moved back I was fluent in spoken Portuguese, but I never studied it. Some of my sort of grammar and actual technical understanding of the language was limited. And so when I discovered that Portuguese, the romance department had a really solid Portuguese program, I was excited. And I actually met Dr. Vernon at a major fair, I think, admitted student day. And he was just really kind and really interested in my background and talked about the department a bit and it sounded like it would just be a more kind of intimate experience than being a bio or a major.

H: Meghan, Oscar and Kelsey are a very clear example of how diverse the Romance Studies department is. Despite the fact that all three students come from very different backgrounds, each one found their own way to push themselves to become a more well-rounded scholar with a broader understanding of the language with the help and support of Romance Studies.

O: [00:04:13-00:04:46]  So my experience so far has been like really good at the department, the classes I learn about music again, like cultural literature, everything

[00:04:46-00:05:00] And, and that’s the thing that you get here when you take like different professors, even though it’s kind of like sometimes the same books, but like, I don’t know, like it’s, it broadens, like it expands your horizons and your perspective

[00:09:12-00:09:50] One of the things I did, actually, last semester that I really enjoy was, uh, teaching in Spanish. I was part of the Spanish 292 class, which is basically your tutor, like, uh, a students that are taking Spanish one on one, one or two. And I really enjoy that because, well, like, I felt that I was doing something good and at the same time I was creating like more like friendships and stuff like that. Literally, one of the guys that I taught Spanish to, um, I see him almost every day, like, just walking in the street and he, I, he gives me a daily where everything that is going with his Spanish classes and all that. And I think that’s pretty cool.

M: [00:03:25-00:04:26]  I ended up starting with 401 and four two, which is Portuguese for like native speakers and either maybe also have natively spoken Spanish or something. And I think that was a great start. It it was I felt comfortable in it. And yet it also gave me like a great foundation of grammar and the technical language and had a lot more practice writing and just increasing my vocabulary and comfort in like an academic linguistic setting. So that was a really good base. And then from there started taking more sort of cultural and historical classes and one’s on Brazil and one’s on Portugal. And that just gave an opportunity to read important Brazilian and Portuguese authors and be exposed to media. And we watched movies and heard music and just got a much broader feel for the culture of Lusophone countries, especially in terms of Brazilian art and music and movies.

K: [00:06:00-00:06:45] I think when I first came, I wasn’t totally ready for college French like I had taken AP French in high school. But really the only communication that you do is like brief conversations in class. And so coming into French 255, which is entirely a conversation course, I was kind of thrown for a loop because I wasn’t used to talking that much. But I had Dr. Provo, who I’ve had for three courses. She’s incredible and really helped like guide us into that and just encouraged us. It’s okay if you make mistakes like we’re just here to practice. And so that was super helpful and I think kind of set the trajectory for the rest of my studies here in the Languages Department was that it’s going to be challenging, but it’s going to be worthwhile.

H: Meghan and Kelsey also decided to take advantage of opportunities outside the classroom through the department’s study abroad programs in Lisbon, Portugal and Montpelier, France. Both students were able to take the skills they gained in the classroom and further improve their language proficiency while also learning about a different country and culture.

M: [00:04:42-00:05:11] I studied abroad through the Portuguese department in Portugal and that was a really awesome experience to be able to develop more, more language proficiency. I took Portuguese language learning classes there. I also took translation classes and then. I took a classical Greek culture in Portuguese, so that was a fun experience as well, to be studying something totally different, but like being lectured to in Portuguese with the Portuguese professor.

K: [00:03:13-00:04:02] It was definitely an incredible two months. I think no one totally can fully prepare you for what it’s like to be in an immersive experience like that. And prior to going there, I’d only really spoken French in a classroom setting. I’d never gone to a French speaking country and so could listen fairly well and could read. But it’s totally different when you’re in the environment, not to mention them. Montpellier has an interesting accent as well. That’s maybe not the traditional French you learn in the classroom, but I would say it was definitely very different from what I was expecting in terms of just what it was like for me to try speaking French, because I think that the understanding element was there. I couldn’t understand 100% of what people were saying, but I felt like I had a good level of comprehension under that up until that point.

H: Throughout their time at UNC all three of these students went above and beyond to take advantage of what the Romance Studies department has to offer and they fully immersed themselves in their own learning. For Oscar and Kelsey, the chancellor’s award was meaningful to them because it recognized the work and passion that they were putting into studying their respective languages and cultures.


O: [00:10:01-00:10:27] I mean, I think it just paid off like all the hard work, like during the three years that I’ve been here and doing see. So and also it makes me proud because I got the chancellor word for Spanish, which makes me proud because I’m a Spanish speaker. So it just made me proud of where I’m coming from and everything that I have been really go through and work for since I came to this country, basically.

K: [00:13:57-00:14:03] I think more than anything, it is just like proof of the work that I think I have done. [00:14:18-00:14:33] And I think that having this award, like being nominated for it, is just such a testament to the fact that my hard work matters. And also, I mean, I’ve acknowledged that, but it is very sweet to see that. I guess my professors have seen that hard work, too

H: Besides recognizing the outstanding work of our students in Romance Studies, the Chancellor’s Scholarship is also meaningful because of the tangible opportunities that it can open.

M: [00:08:06-00:08:47] And yeah, I it’s enabled me this coming summer, I’m hoping to go home for the summer and do kind of a service project there. There’s a conference happening that my family helps out with sometimes, and so I’m going back and kind of volunteering with that process, and I wasn’t honestly entirely sure of how I was going to pay to get home because obviously it’s pretty expensive. It’s a it’s a couple of thousand dollars for tickets and stuff. And so and I’m starting starting a job, but starting it after the summer. And so I wasn’t really sure how that was going to work out. And then I got the email and I was like, Well, I guess this is how it’s going to going to work out. So that’s been a really cool, cool way that it has helped to my summer plans

H:  As seniors, all three students have had to consider where life will take them next and what they want to do in the future. Oscar and Meghan both plan on entering different branches of the medical field, but both of them believe that their language studies will help them to make broader connections in their careers.

O: [00:06:53-00:07:32] professionally, I believe that is going to help me because, well, first of all, dentistry is social patient, like doctor bond relationship like it’s a really close relationship. And I don’t know, like taking these classes in a way, it expands your knowledge and it gives like more topics of conversation that you can have with other people. Is it makes you more, I would say, like a renaissance person, you know, to know a little bit about everything. And I feel that that allows you to use establish relationship issues with other with other people.

M: [00:05:58-00:07:17] I’m pre-med and I’m taking a gap year currently and then heading to medical school hopefully. And I think I think, well, kind of in terms of the immediate future, having a non STEM major has honestly been a huge benefit in this process. Just feeling not burnt out on the sciences, feeling like I have had a well-rounded perspective and I really enjoyed my college experience and like it, it hasn’t just been four years of prep for med school, it’s really been four years of of learning and knowledge. And so I think it’s prepared me really well going into the next phase. And then I my personal sort of long term desire is to practice medicine overseas. I would love to end up in my home country one day back in Angola, possibly, or perhaps in Mozambique or, you know, I mean, even potentially Brazil. And I mean, obviously, then having a more sort of technical and professional level of language proficiency would be a huge asset. I already since studying and being able to write more comfortably in Portuguese, write essays in Portuguese, read essays and Portuguese has already been a huge help when I’ve visited home and stuff being being comfortable with that, the level of of language has been really good.

H: As a double major in Public Policy and French, Kelsey plans on entering the business world and sees French as an asset that is both personally and professionally rewarding.

K: [00:09:09-00:10:40] Hopefully one day it will come into play professionally. But I think also just personally, I would love to be able to pass that on to a family later on. But also, like I said, I think it just helps orient your perspective of the world and so glad to have that in my back pocket. And then also I think learning a second language is just a great lesson in flexibility and resilience because it’s not easy and you kind of have to get used to the fact that you’re not always going to know and you’re not always going to be able to say what you want. And so it just, I think, really catalyzes the development of your creativity and your adaptability. And so I think that those are lessons you can apply in any personal and professional situation that I’m really grateful that my studies have kind of helped prepare me for.

H: With this final reflection, we end this third episode of the ROMS podcast. Kelsey said it best; studying a language teaches you skillsets that go beyond the act of communication between one person and another. Our students learn creativity, strategic thinking, cultural competency and adaptability that can apply across a wide variety of disciplines and life paths. This episode was produced by Paola Cadena Pardo, one of our faculty members, the sound design was also made by Paola; written and hosted by Caro Register, and music by Mike Forristell. Don’t forget to follow us on Spotify, Apple podcast, Google podcast, or your preferred app, that way you will know when our next episode is released. Adios, Chao, Au revior, Adeus, and we will see you next time