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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

The Casa offers a very direct entrance into Spanish culture, facilitated by Gamarra’s tangible knowledge of Spanish culture. “There is a commitment from me to them, to do my best to provide them a variety of things so they can get a little taste of everything,” Gamarra said. “They have this alien here from Peru who can actually answer their questions, tell them stories, give them anecdotes about what it’s like to live outside the U.S.” Thus, the Language House facilitates an environment similar to the immersion of an abroad experience, which can serve as a replacement for or preparation for abroad for many students. With Gamarra’s commitment to the 20 current Casa students, comes a reciprocal commitment from them to her. They must speak Spanish in their rooms, practice between them and with her, attend two mandatory events a month, and organize one event per academic year.

The Casa is an eclectic mix of students—ranging from native Puerto Ricans to American students looking to further their language skills before going abroad. “Each of my residents also brings their own experience to us, and the whole environment is powerful,” said Gamarra, who describes the Casa as a “melting pot.”

Raissa Horimbere, CSOM ’15, applied to the Casa for the purpose of keeping up her Spanish due to the fact that she didn’t have space in her academic schedule to continue taking Spanish classes. She noted that it has been a great substitute to taking Spanish classes, adding, “Of course we have seniors and some students who just want good housing, but if you’re involved, you’ll get a lot out of it.”

Corey Streitwiester, A&S ’13, expressed his content with how his experience in the Casa has been going. “Spanish classes focus on cultivating an intellectual register of the language, and the Casa offers an opportunity to explore the more natural, often messier, idioms of every day life.”

Didem Alkan, GFR for the Maison Francaise and GA&S ’18, expressed similar excitement about the program. Alkan, a native Turk, has been studying French literature as a graduate student for four months at BC. Maison Francaise has the same requirements as the Casa. Alkan has been organizing the calendar for this academic year, catering to the varying speaking levels of residents.

“I’m trying to create a balance because learning a language is really difficult, but not losing it is even more difficult,” Alkan said. “That’s why I’m trying to combine residents who are natives and those who aren’t natives.”

Alkan did express some initial obstacles she encountered in becoming acclimated to the program. While some residents are more involved in the activities and organized events, others only show up for the minimum requirements. Also, as a 24-year-old, and very close to the ages of her residents, Alkan sometimes had doubts about her ability to implement discipline.

Despite this, however, she noted that the residents have become extremely close, and said, “I feel like I’m with my family here. This is my first time studying abroad for a long period of time, and I really feel that I’m living with my family. During the break, I went back to my country and I really missed my residents and emailed them frequently.”

Scott Masek, A&S ’13, applied to the French House for different reasons than the typical student. He has lived on the third floor of Voute for his sophomore year, and now for his senior year, for practical and personal reasons. Originally from France, he found the living experience helpful for a student from abroad to have some exposure to being home, especially since there are few French students present at BC. Masek lives with one Mexican, one Italian, and one Nigerian student, noting that “even though it’s based around French culture, you get a little of everything. This is supposed to be a sharing floor. If you want to make the most of the experience, you need to share.”

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