Chips, Salsa, and Spanish Selective

Chips, Salsa, and Spanish Selective

Imagine a typical week in veterinary school. There is an interminable amount of classes to attend, multiple tests, and very little time to kick back and relax. Devoting yourself to studying is almost never fun, but there are those rare moments where learning and enjoyment go hand in hand and you remember why you entered this crazy profession to begin with. For me, that moment comes in the form of chips, salsa, and Spanish class every Wednesday night.

Señora Christine

On Wednesday evenings, myself and about ten other student drive back to campus and attend a Spanish selective course for an hour and a half. When we first started, my expectation was to learn a lot of medical vocabulary with flashcards and rote memorization, and I wasn’t particularly enthused with the thought of another class to add to my workload.  However,  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Engaged learning


Señora Chris works with a group of students.

The first night of class we met a bright, colorful, Argentinian woman named Christine Feder, aka Señora Chris. Señora Chris is one of those extraordinary people you meet every so often who reminds you that enjoying life is just as important as working hard and learning. During her Spanish class we immerse ourselves in the Spanish language and diligently incorporate new vocab into conversation, but she manages to make it an energetic and mobilizing experience. In place of a small room with dimmed lights and the glow of endless PowerPoint slides, we learn through active engagement or role-playing while snacking on chips and salsa. How do chips and salsa benefit our learning experience you ask? Well, it doesn’t make me memorize things faster, but it does make the atmosphere more relaxed and engaging, which is important when practicing language skills and being comfortable putting yourself out there to make mistakes and learn from them.

Real-world scenarios


Students practice their language skills with veterinary scenarios.

Over the last few months my Spanish medical vocabulary has expanded, as has my overall happiness and satisfaction with veterinary school. In Spanish class I’m able to actively participate in my learning and prepare for real-life scenarios that I might encounter in practice. Last week, Señora Chris brought in two fluent Spanish-speakers that acted as clients with patients that needed to be seen, and we were able to put our new Spanish language knowledge to use while also practicing interpersonal skills that would be used in any doctor-client interaction.  I have yet to experience anything like that in my other classes, and I feel lucky to have a teacher who recognizes the value of applying what we learn as we learn it.

Cultural immersion

Almost as important as the academic value of the class is the cultural immersion that we experience. Señora Chris recognizes that many of us are interested in the Hispanic culture as well as Spanish language, and she always makes sure to enhance our class by mixing in cultural notes or specific colloquiums that vary by country or region. As a result, we learn about the culture of clients we may serve in practice and how their background might influence their decisions and interaction with us. The fact that we get to learn Spanish while also becoming familiar with different cultures that use the language is one of my favorite parts of the course, and one of the many reasons Señora Chris has a special knack for making our material interesting and engaging.

Now re-imagine a typical week of vet school. You still have an endless amount of work to do, and there’s probably a test the next day, but you also have Wednesday night Spanish class. A night of learning immersion and real-life interactions with your classmates that will better prepare you to serve members of the community. Once a week, you’re reminded that learning can be a balance of enjoyment and education, with a bowl of chips and salsa.