‘The world is still out there:’ New COLA series offers virtual vacations for students to learn about languages, cultures

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Photo Credit: Emma George | Daily Texan Staff


The College of Liberal Arts started offering a virtual vacation series Oct. 13 for students to learn about new languages and cultures despite the pandemic. 

The program features 14 different sessions where attendees can learn basic greetings and words from 18 different languages, view travel destinations and learn more about UT language programs. The last sessions will be held Oct. 22. 

Rachel White, a public affairs representative for COLA, said the virtual vacations were a way for students to explore the options of different languages offered at UT. 

“It’s also just a huge way to connect people with each other because in that room, in that digital space, it’s really hard,” White said. “Especially for our younger students that are first or second year, they’re missing out on an on-campus experience that so many others got to have.”

She said COLA conducted a first pilot of the program this summer after a survey of students across UT revealed that many choose to take courses about languages with which they already have some comfort or familiarity. 

“Maybe it was (because) their mom was from Mexico, and they had this cultural heritage that they wanted to explore,” White said. “Maybe they went on a trip somewhere and wanted to learn more about that language and culture, so they had some prior connection. We wanted to be able to give students that kind of connection.”

 

Business honors freshman Radhika Kannan said she attended the sessions on Italian, French and Turkish and received a recording for the Korean lesson. She said the virtual vacations were a good way to see how UT teaches languages, and she enjoyed meeting the people who teach the classes.  

“It’s fun for me to learn new languages because it’s kind of like a puzzle, like figuring out how these words fit together and the grammar,” Kannan said. “But also it just gives you so much more opportunity to see so many new things that your culture might not expose you to.” 

Heather Rice, the Russian language coordinator and a Russian lecturer for COLA, participated in the pilot program over the summer and said she hoped to use the mini lessons to present information about language learning to students outside of a typical classroom. 

“All of us are stuck at home, and all of us are aching to get out and to travel,” Rice said. “These presentations serve as a reminder, a little bit of hope that the world is still out there. We’re all in the same situation right now, but it’ll end, and we’ll be able to travel.”