Jillian Jirik ’19, Hitterdal, Minn.
Major/Minor: Spanish; Business

My world turned upside down when I took my first Spanish class in high school.

My profe (teacher) was encouraging and kind and introduced herself as a proud Cobber graduate who loved the Spanish culture and everything it encompassed. She presented the class with a slideshow that gave us a sneak peek into her college experiences at Concordia, which included photos from her semester abroad in Segovia, Spain. I fell in love with the possibility of learning a second language instantly, and profe nurtured that love throughout the rest of my high school years by motivating and challenging me.

A beautiful balcony I came across in Spain

Fast forward to my first day of walking into my Spanish class as a freshman in college. After taking the language placement test, I had tested into the sophomore level of Spanish and considered myself lucky – I was already ahead of the game. Yet, I felt terrified as I sat down at my desk. Was the class entirely in Spanish? Will I be able to keep up with the class discussions? How do I even speak Spanish?

And then la profesora Karin Hillstrom walked in with a big smile. “¡Buenos días, a todos!” (Good morning, everyone!)

After an hour of introductions and borderline-pathetic Spanish on my part, I left class knowing that even though I was hardly coherent, everything was going to be fine. I felt assured. My profe made me feel comfortable and even encouraged conversation, despite my lack of confidence. Throughout the rest of my first semester in college, I was starting to notice a difference in my vocabulary and in my grammar. My confidence was gradually rising.

A dear friend and I exploring La Alhambra in Granada, Spain (Photo Credit: Maggie Hohlen)

Since that first college Spanish class, my fluency skyrocketed. By my sophomore year, I had visited El Lago del Bosque, the Spanish Language Village in Bemidji, Minn. Each year, there’s a region or country that the Village focuses on and, during that particular weekend, I learned about the Andes. Through sing-a-longs en Español, stumbling along with the typical dances of the culture and trying out amazing food, I experienced a taste of what this Village was all about. Some of the counselors were native Spanish speakers and some weren’t. It was a blast and I definitely want to return sometime before I graduate.

One of the cabins at El Lago del Bosque, the Spanish Language Village in Bemidji, Minn. (Photo Credit: Shawna Pantzke)

I finally took a leap of faith and decided to study abroad my junior year. Segovia was a natural choice, as it was where my high school teacher studied, so I followed in her footsteps. My experience was incredible and I am so grateful that I decided to study Spanish here at Concordia College.

The Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain (Photo credit: Katrina Carabio)

Because Concordia has an emphasis on the liberal arts, students can study a second language while simultaneously studying their specified field. It’s paired beautifully with other majors or can stand alone as well. I’m a Spanish major with a business minor, I’m involved in a handful of music ensembles, and I organized my schedule in such a way that it’s allowing me to graduate a semester early. How neat is that?

There are so many benefits to learning a second language, so it’s a win-win situation either way. The faculty in the Spanish department are kind and also don’t mind chatting with you at any time. As an added bonus, a weekly coffee hour is held every Friday morning where students can strengthen their Spanish skills with the staff in the department, drink coffee, and even occasionally eat authentic Hispanic food! ¿Por qué no? (Why not?)

Me enjoying the views in A Coruña, Spain

It’s just all so good. I can’t wait to put my Spanish to use. Even knowing conversational-level Spanish will help you start discussions and learn more about culture and diversity. New doors will open opportunities for travel, allowing your horizons to expand. I haven’t even graduated yet, and I’ve traveled out of the country three times because of a Spanish-related adventure. So trust me when I say that you’ll want to consider studying this language at Concordia because your life will change for the better.