Students of French, Spanish present at Undergraduate Conference on Languages and Cultures

On Saturday, Sept. 23, Elon hosted students and faculty from Elon and regional universities at its second annual Undergraduate Conference on Languages and Cultures.

Students and faculty from Elon, Guilford College and Wake Forest University gathered for the day-long conference exploring “No Limits in the French- and Spanish-Speaking Worlds” with a poster session open to all languages. Also in attendance were special guests in French from Durham Academy.

The conference was generously sponsored by the Fund for Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, the Student Professional Development Center, the Office of Alumni Engagement and the Department of World Languages and Cultures. The event was organized by Patti Burns, lecturer of French in the Department of World Languages and Cultures.  

During concurrent morning and afternoon panels, students presented both finished works and works in progress. Their research in French and Spanish was on topics that ranged from the depiction of childhood poverty, violence and immigration in Latin America to representations of migrants and migrant identity in modern day France.

During the poster session, students in French, German and Hebrew presented their research on topics such as idyllic representations of immigration in film, heimat—the relationship between people and a spatial-social unit, and culturally significant jewelry. During lunch, Professor Maria Bobroff of Guilford College gave the plenary lecture on Québécois and Vietnamese cultures in her talk titled “Kim Thúy: Traversing Barriers and Breaking Molds.” In an afternoon session, Professor Pablo Celis-Castillo led an interactive workshop on how to write a CV and cover letter for various cultures in the Spanish-speaking world.

The final conference events were two concurrent Professionalization Panels during which three Elon alumnae — Amber Christino ’10, Christina Peterson ’10, and Erin Luther ’16 — talked about their own personal and professional journeys related to engagement with foreign languages and cultures. Kristen Aquilino from the Student Professional Development Center highlighted a focus on personal priorities and reflection as students discover their professional paths.

While the alumnae have used their languages professionally, they reminded students that deep knowledge of another language and culture is always viewed positively by potential employers (whether or not the language is a prerequisite for the position) because it demonstrates open-mindedness, an ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and a willingness to engage with difference.

World Languages and Cultures faculty members Adamson, Burns, Celis-Castillo, Olivia Choplin, and Sarah Glasco hope that the conference will become a permanent fixture at Elon that will expand to include panels in additional languages in the future.

Seeing and hearing advanced students present their research early in their college careers can be a true motivator. Several attendees commented that the most valuable part of the conference was connecting with like-minded students and sharing research and passions. For all attendees, speaking with Elon alumnae about their experiences with careers, internships, and life abroad was invaluable.