“I was taking the class to fulfill my language and culture requirement. I immediately liked how Profesora Osuna focused on how language is useful in work situations,” Sam says. “She encouraged me to declare a minor, and I became a Spanish and Hispanic studies major my sophomore year.”
That winter, Osuna urged him to enroll in her advanced level course, Lost and Found in Translation, thinking it would be a good fit for his interests. Instead of working on literal translations of Spanish literature, as in previous years, students explored the complexities of bilingual communications by translating documents for the Spanish-speaking population at a Schenectady domestic violence shelter.
“I loved doing something that actually mattered,” he says. “I was applying translation skills as I was learning them. I came to understand an immense amount about culture, gender, history, language and communication. There’s a lot of nuance to how we speak and convey messages.”
He has served as volunteer with True Colors Inc., a Hartford, Conn.-based organization serving sexual and gender minority youth, and thanks to a Union-sponsored non-profit internship, he worked in Harlem, N.Y., at the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBTQ youth in summer 2019.
He’s gratified by how it all came together.
Not only did Professor Osuna pique his curiosity about the relevance of the Spanish language in the world today, but as his academic adviser, she also encouraged him to make connections with his career goals.
“She knew I wanted to go into social work and advocate for marginalized communities, particularly LGBTQ youth who might be struggling. She gave me insight into how identity often looks in Spanish and Hispanic populations in the U.S. That’s been tremendously inspiring.”