Service Learning

Art project with Latino elementary students

Within the language programs in Romance Studies there are multiple opportunities for engagement in the community, the best venue for acquiring real-world linguistic and cultural knowledge. Student interaction with language communities provides occasions for developing civic engagement, cultural competence, political activism, and awareness of issues of social justice.

"Through my service experience, I have seen evidence of the themes that we have discussed in class and for me, it was a pretty heavy experience to see the topics from our readings and conversations in class occurring so close by in real life." (Spanish 307S)

Childcare during adult English classes

Currently there are service-learning courses offered in French and Spanish. These courses require a commitment of 15-20 hours of service in the community in addition to traditional class contact hours.

“I’ve become very close with the family that I was assigned,” said Madeline Thornton, a junior majoring in French and global health. “Since I’m in the area this summer, I’ve been stopping by their home to read books with the children in order to keep up their English skills while they’re out of school. I’m grateful for Dr. Reisinger and the service learning program for connecting me with some life-long friends.” (French 270T)

Refugees getting to know campus

Duke students interact with the community in many ways, such as getting to know community members during class visits and departmental events, visiting businesses in Durham, participating in international video conversations, and working alongside community members in service-learning courses. Some examples of service projects are working with refugees from Central Africa, organizing art activities for Latino/a elementary school students, and tutoring Latino/a adults in English.

"This course has been one of the most rewarding courses I have taken at Duke. I absolutely loved the component of interacting via Skype or meetings with different health organizations in Latin America. It was inspiring to talk to leaders who are actively working in an area many of us aspire to work in. A lot of time our goals feel like unattainable dreams but this course made them seem really real." (Spanish 306) 

A potluck dinner between the English students and tutors
  • Learn more about the French-language projects here
  • Learn more about the Spanish-language interactions here

"Learning about [my partner's] personal experience has provided me with a more complete understanding of the roadblocks, whether fiscal, social, logistical or otherwise, to adapting to life in America as a refugee," said James Johnson, a senior majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and French." (French 325S)

See how other Duke language programs participate in the Community-Based Language Initiative here