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Romance Language Floor Offers Students Unique Cultural Immersion Experience

Asst. Features Editor

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 00:02

To an average student, it appears to be just another floor in Voute Hall—spacious rooms, large common areas, and a coveted kitchen. Yet, if one listens carefully, he or she will hear the sounds of French and Spanish echoing through the halls. The third floor of Voute offers a unique experience for Boston College students—the opportunity to live fully immersed in a culture without leaving campus. Residents live in four-person apartments with other students who have committed themselves to speaking the same language—either French or Spanish.

Special interest housing offers a range of unique experiences for all students who apply, and they have six options to choose from. The Shaw Leadership Program is a four-year-living-learning program run through the Office of Residential Life. For the Shaw Program, 20 promising incoming freshmen are selected from a highly competitive pool and reside in the Shaw House freshman year. Students attend weekly leadership workshops, participate in community service opportunities, and engage in a leadership project. Additionally, the Honors House creates an enriching experience for honors students—placing them in a living atmosphere that allows students to form intellectual as well as social bonds that extend beyond the classroom.

The Multicultural Leadership Experience Floors are open to students of all ethnic and racial backgrounds and provide the residents a window into varying cultures. The mission of these floors works in tandem with the mission of the University—defining and promoting diversity through programming. Students plan and participate in multicultural theme programs that aim to address and evaluate the issues of our society.

The Healthy Alternatives Lifestyle Floors appeal to students interested in living in a residence hall free of alcohol, tobacco, and other potentially harmful substances. Students who apply to the Healthy Alternatives Lifestyle Floors typically are encouraged and motivated to live a life that is conducive to academic success, personal development, and a sense of community and responsibility.

The Sustainable Living and Learning Community, located in Edmond’s Hall, is the newest addition to the special housing options. Rising sophomores interested in sustainable living must dedicate themselves to exploring the topic of sustainability, engaging in service, and promoting environmental awareness. Students must be motivated to examine the pressing issues of sustainability.

While most students are aware of these various housing options on campus, the Romance Language floor seems to be the most esoteric. Any sophomores, juniors, or seniors can apply to live in either Maison Francaise or Casa Hispanica. The third floor of Voute offers four-person apartments, each with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a bath. These two “houses” are considered under the umbrella of “The language house program,” which enables approximately 30 students interested in language and culture to live together. Residents are personally guided by graduate student residents, who are also experienced teachers and native-level speakers. The Graduate Fellow Residents (GFRs) live in apartments on the floor and coordinate with the RAs to facilitate planning and execution of activities aimed at improving the students’ language skills and cultivating their knowledge of other cultures through first hand experience.

Evelin Gamarra Martinez, GFR of Casa Hispanica and GA&S ’18, noted the importance of the Romance Language floor experience for both herself and for the students. Gamarra, originally from Peru, came to the U.S. for a year in 2005 on a Fulbright Scholarship and was placed in Vermont as a foreign language teaching assistant. After a year of teaching, she felt that she still had so much to learn about American culture, and so much potential knowledge to attain. Gamarra took an offer to work at BC as director of the Casa. Gamarra is in charge of organizing activities that will immerse the students in Spanish culture and ensure that all students on the floor are speaking only Spanish in the residence.

Casa Hispanica and Maison Francaise both offer a calendar full of monthly activities designed by and for the house residents, such as dinners, student presentations, film series, cooking classes, and concerts. Non-language house residents are also welcome to attend the events—some classes even offer extra credit to attend movie screenings or lectures. In addition to these activities, however, Casa Hispanica and Maison Francaise residents are required to speak their chosen language consistently, even with their roommates behind closed doors.

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