Thinking About Learning Another Language?


Hola! That was the only word I knew in Spanish as a student entering sixth grade.  Although I had a brief introduction to Spanish in Kindergarten, I was excited to begin the challenge of learning a new language.  It was indeed a challenge, but after nine years of learning Spanish, I achieved proficiency according to the Georgetown University proficiency exam for students in the School of Foreign Service.  My journey to learning Spanish is ongoing, and this summer I am continuing the challenge as a volunteer at the Latin American Coalition.  Although I began learning Spanish out of a desire to grow in my knowledge and understanding of the language, I have since learned of other benefits of learning another language.

As a language student and an international relations student, one of the most important benefits I have learned of is the ability to create cross-cultural connections.  We are living in an increasingly globalized world.  Several factors, notably technology, have allowed people to connect in ways that have not been possible in the past.  In connecting with others, it is important to gain an understanding of other cultures, and learning another language can facilitate that.  When one learns another language, one learns more than the language itself.  Learning another language entails learning about history, customs and traditions, everyday life and more.  To learn a new language is to gain an appreciation for other cultures.

In addition to cross-cultural connections, there are several other benefits of learning another language.  Learning another language can benefit one physically by increasing attention span, improving memory, and bettering cognitive skills in a way that can combat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Furthermore, knowing another language can be beneficial when traveling abroad.  It can provide one with the knowledge needed to interact with others in a foreign country.  The focus of many when learning a new language is marketability.  For many jobs and careers today, being bilingual or multilingual is an asset.  It is not just useful for people in careers in international affairs but for people in all careers that require one to interact with cultures other than one’s own, from lawyers to psychologists.  Learning another language is important because it opens the door to a new world for the learner.  Start a new language today and begin the journey of a lifetime.

Start a new language today and begin the journey of a lifetime.

Written by Deirdre Jonese Austin, Georgetown University Class of 2019, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Culture & Politics Major, Focus in Religion & Social Justice (WACC Intern – Summer 2017)

Photo by Tessakay via Pixabay (CC0 Public Domain)

Meet Our 2016-2017 Council Scholars

The World Affairs Council of Charlotte is proud to recognize recipients of the 2016-2017 Council Scholar Award. This program is generously supported by the following WACC Ambassador Education Partners: Wells Fargo, Carolinas HealthCare System, Bank of America, and UNC Charlotte.

The $2500 grant is presented annually to outstanding educators in recognition of their commitment to international education in the greater Charlotte area.

As a Council Scholar, recipients may use the grant to participate in international conferences, study abroad programs, language classes or other eligible international education opportunities abroad. Past Council Scholars have been able to bring back new perspectives, which in turn have enriched and enhanced the classroom experience.

There are more than 100 scholars representing over 30 schools in the greater Charlotte region.


Aimy Shantell La’Nae Steele
Beverly Hills STEM Elementary School
K-5 Principal
Spanish and School Administration

Aimy Shantell La’Nae Steele will travel to Costa Rica & Nicaragua as part of a professional development trip sponsored by Worldview in partnership with Immersion Abroad. She will spend nine days visiting local schools, participating in discussions with local teachers, volunteering with community service projects, and taking part in a Spanish for Educators language course and ecological expeditions. As a fluent Spanish speaker, Aimy hopes to become more proficient in Latin American culture as her school consists of more than 30 percent Latino students.

With nine years of teaching and administrative experience, Aimy holds a B.A. in Spanish and K-12 Education and an M.A. in School Administration, both degrees from UNC Charlotte. She is currently in the dissertation phase of completing her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Urban Education at UNC Charlotte.

Andrew Shimko - Council Scholar
Andrew Shimko
Independence High School
Grades 9-12
Soccer Coach and Biology and Earth Science

Andrew Shimko will travel to Barcelona, Spain where he will immerse himself in an intensive two-week Spanish course at the Ole Spanish School through classroom work and group meet-ups. After spending two weeks in Barcelona, Andrew will travel to Madrid where he will have the opportunity to compare the Spanish cultures of Barcelona and Madrid while also strengthening his Spanish communication skills. As a science teacher, Andrew focuses on merging international events with the global impact of science and technology. In learning Spanish, Andrew’s capability to strengthen his interactions with students and their families will prove invaluable as a teacher and coach at Independence High School.

With five years of teaching experience, Andrew holds degrees in biology and German from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Debra Semmler
East Mecklenburg High School
Grades 10-12
AP and IB Physics

Debra Semmler will attend the 2017 Solar Conference hosted by the Rwanda Development Board in Kigali, Rwanda in July 2017. While attending the conference, Debra will formalize the connections between STEM and IB programs in schools in Charlotte and Rwanda. Debra’s passion for this connection began in the summer of 2015 when she visited East Africa and realized that science educators can deliver a specialized academy-style experience cross-culturally. She’s continued to communicate with educators in Rwanda as well as encourage her students in the IB program to create and develop globally-oriented project ideas.

With 25 years teaching experience, Debra holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida and an M.S. in Engineering from UNC Charlotte. She also co-founded and co-leads the East Mecklenburg High School Global Immersion Steering Team, which invites educators who actively seek opportunities to learn about the benefits of creating worldwide connections in the classroom.

Natalie Jones
West Charlotte Senior High School
Grades 9-12
Visual Arts, Photography and Crafts

Natalie Jones will travel to Cusco, Peru where she will volunteer for two months at the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales des Cusco (CTTC). Here, she will learn about different textile and weaving techniques as well as enhance her photography skills. Natalie will also be staying with a Peruvian family, allowing her to utilize and strengthen her Spanish language skills. As a volunteer in the education department at CTTC, Natalie will be photographing the annual festival in June and working in the center’s administrative office helping to prepare for the Young Weavers Gathering. Natalie’s experience in Peru will positively impact her interactions and relationships with her students through language and culture. Her goal upon completing this volunteer experience is to create and develop Spanish cultural programs at West Charlotte Senior High School.

With six years of teaching experience, Natalie holds a B.A. from Norfolk University and an M.A. from Ohio State University.

Casey Shirey .jpg
Casey Shirey
Jay M. Robinson High School
Grades 9-12

Casey Shirey will travel to Soria, Spain where she will be attending the III International Colloquium on Languages, Cultures, Identity in School & Society organized by Loyola University. While attending the colloquium, Casey will gain useful knowledge to help hone her professional skills as they relate to students in both ESL and Spanish classrooms as well as reinforce her own Spanish language skills. Casey believes that the strongest bonds come from a place of common understanding and by traveling to Spain, she will better understand her students and their families at Jay M. Robinson High School.

With seven years of teaching experience, Casey holds a B.A. in Spanish and a B.S. in Athletic Training from Western Carolina University, and an M.A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Universidad de Jaen. She also taught English as a second language in Peru and Costa Rica.


Jo Ellen Malveaux
Collinswood Language Academy
Grades K-3
Professional School Counselor – Elementary

Jo Ellen Malveaux will travel to Ecuador where she will participate in the Ecuador Professional Preparation Program (EPPP). Here, Jo Ellen hopes to build a better understanding of Spanish-language speakers, gain confidence in speaking Spanish, acquire knowledge of Spanish culture, and advance her comprehension of psychological and educational practices in Ecuador. Upon returning home from Ecuador, Jo Ellen hopes to work more closely with the Spanish families of Collinswood Language Academy.

With over nine years of experience, Jo Ellen holds a B.A. in Psychology from Hampton University, an M.Ed in School Psychology from Columbia University, and an M.A. in School Counseling from Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Charlotte Curry McGhee
Greenway Park Elementary School
Grades K-5
English as a Second Language (ESL)

Charlotte Curry McGhee will travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where she will spend two weeks of intensive language study at Caminhos Language Centre. While in Brazil, Charlotte will study Portuguese in a small-class setting for four hours a day. In addition to her classes, Charlotte plans to stay with a host family, giving her the opportunity to immerse herself in the language and put into practice what she learns in the classroom. She will also be working with Caminhos to contact local schools so she can better understand the school system in Brazil. Upon completion of the language study and her return home, Charlotte will continue developing “Estamos Unidos” (We Are United), a program she developed to help immigrant families during the transition of moving to a different country and new school.

With six years of teaching experience, Charlotte holds a B.A. in International Studies from Elon University and an M.A. in Spanish Literature, Language and Culture from UNC Charlotte.

Suzanne Feinstein
Kensington Elementary School
Grade 5
Reading, Math, Writing, Social Studies and Science
With six years of teaching experience, Charlotte holds a B.A. in International Studies from Elon University and an M.A. in Spanish Literature, Language and Culture from UNC Charlotte.

Suzanne Feinstein will travel to Costa Rica & Nicaragua as part of a professional development trip sponsored by World View. With Kensington Elementary School’s new Global Initiative, this trip will help Suzanne bring a global view to the classroom as well as provide her with the opportunity to immerse herself in the Spanish language and compare Costa Rican and Nicaraguan school systems. Upon completion of the program, Suzanne plans to arrange the fifth-grade science curriculum around the richness of Costa Rica and Nicaragua’s resources and ecosystems.With seven years teaching experience, Suzanne holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from State College of New York at Oneonta and a M.Ed Reading Specialist from Rutgers University.

Christina Roth
Christina Roth
Oaklawn Language Academy
Grades K-5
Teachers in Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Classes

Christina Roth will attend the 2017 World Gifted Conference: Global Perspectives in Gifted Education in Sydney, Australia this summer. Upon completion of the conference, Christina will observe gifted education classrooms with the opportunity to co-teach several lessons in the local Sydney school district. Christina’s focus will be on “building a stronger parent support network for gifted students, as well as increasing the level of diversity in our gifted and talented population” at Oaklawn Language Academy.

With 17 years of teaching experience, Christina holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan and an M.Ed. in Reading and Literacy from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She also has certifications in AIG and ESL (K-12), and is nationally certified as a middle childhood education generalist.


Lucinda A. Shelton
South Mecklenburg High School
Grades 9-12
Visual Arts

Lucinda Shelton will participate in an Oxford Short Course as well as attend The National Society for Education in Art & Design Conference in the United Kingdom in June and July 2017. The conference helps art educators develop strategies and leadership skills to manage an art department, while the Oxford Course introduces the study of archaeology and museums. Together, Lucinda will gain an inclusive educational experience that will enhance the art department and enrich the students’ art curriculum at South Mecklenburg High School.

With six years of teaching experience, Lucinda holds a B.A. in English Literature & Language and a B.A. in Studio Art from UNC Wilmington, and a B.S. in Art Education Teaching Certification K-12 from Appalachian State University.

Connect with the World through Study Abroad

Studying abroad is one of the most impactful and beneficial experiences that a student can have in college. Every year hundreds of thousands of US students study abroad all over the world and have the opportunity to travel, experience new cultures, and meet new people. Studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Many people will travel for leisure or work, but it cannot compare to spending a semester or even a few weeks studying and living in another country and another culture. If you talk to students who have participated in study abroad most of them will describe study abroad as being one of, if not the, most important and memorable experiences of their college career. Not only does studying abroad provide an amazing experience to students while they are in college, but it also provides a long term impact through benefits like personal growth, making intercultural connections, and even helping to get a job or get accepted to graduate schools.

Students who study abroad experience enormous personal growth and development as a part of the experience. Living in another country, where often times you don’t speak the language or at least don’t speak it with complete fluency, teaches you to adapt and helps you to develop confidence in yourself. Even more so than going to college, studying abroad helps to develop independence. While there are certainly resources and support available to you while studying abroad, they often don’t look the same as in the United States and so in many ways you are forced to become more reliant on yourself and more able to make decisions for yourself on the fly. The personal development that comes through study abroad also translates back to many other parts of life, which is one of the reasons it is so valued by employers and graduate schools.

Study abroad also provides an opportunity to make connections across cultures. In a world that is increasingly globalized and interconnected, it is important to understand other cultures and to have an appreciation for the differences between other cultures. Studying abroad allows you to live in and immerse yourself in another culture, which helps you to gain a true cultural understanding. By interacting with people of a different culture everyday, you are able to gain an appreciation for how cultures are different, but also how they are the same. It helps you to understand that while someone may live on the opposite side of the world and appear to have a very different lifestyle, in many ways they are like you. Upon return from study abroad you are then more empathetic to other cultures and more understanding of them, which impacts your understanding of domestic and international issues.

Finally, study abroad can be very beneficial in both the job search and the application process to graduate schools. Many of the skills that you develop during study abroad, like independence, the ability to adapt, and cultural understanding, are skills companies and graduate schools are looking for. As a result, many companies and graduate schools look more favorably upon people who have studied abroad. If it comes down to two candidates with the same qualifications except one has studied abroad, as a company you are more likely to choose that candidate because you know they skills developed through that experience. So, not only does study abroad have its personal benefits but it also has its professional benefits and makes you a more competitive candidate. Studying abroad is one of the best decisions you can make as a student and it is guaranteed to have a profound impact on the rest of your life.

Written by Noah Vetter, UNC Charlotte (B.S.B.A. International Business | B.A. International Studies)

Summary: Turkey Performs a Cultural Shift by Allowing Women in the Military to Wear Hijabs











Photo by ozgurmulazimoglu (CC By 3.0) via Wikipedia Commons

Women in the Turkish armed forces have been given permission to wear hijabs, a decision made by the Defense Ministry on Tuesday, February 22.

The Turkish military was actually one of the last institutions to forbid the wearing of hijabs a few years ago in trying to keep their stance as the guardian of Turkey’s secular identity. However, this new decision highlights the transformation of society on the perspective of hijabs, which are now seen as a symbol of the struggle between Turkey’s religious and secular factions rather than just a religious headscarf.

More recently, relatives of soldiers were allowed to enter military groups while wearing hijabs, but this resolution affecting Turkish female soldiers is a landmark decision that deepens the concerns that the government wishes to sever the country’s secular chains.

This speculation may hold true, for the Turkish government under Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been more religiously conscious than past administrations, with this recent decision being only one out of many religious-driven resolutions made under Ergodan’s governance. Many critics also add that the decision may have been too bold for the military due to the controversial nature of hijabs.

Others however welcome the resolution, believing that it finally gives Turkey’s pious majority a chance for the dignity they have been deprived of for many decades.

Summery by Claire Lurie, WACC Intern – Spring 2017 (Queens University of Charlotte – Sophomore)



Global Five Issue Round-Up: January 13, 2017

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2017

The world is entering its most dangerous chapter in decades. The sharp uptick in war over recent years is outstripping our ability to cope with the consequences. From the global refugee crisis to the spread of terrorism, our collective failure to resolve conflict is giving birth to new threats and emergencies. Even in peaceful societies, the politics of fear is leading to dangerous polarization and demagoguery. READ MORE

Amazon Culture Clash Over Dam

A battle is under way in the Amazon region of Brazil between indigenous groups and river dwellers on the one hand and big corporations on the other as the latter go ahead with their plans to build huge dams to meet Brazil’s energy needs. The BBC’s South America correspondent Wyre Davies has been to see what is set to become the world’s fourth largest dam, already under construction, and the indigenous area next in line for developmentREAD MORE

Transition 2017

Amid the cacophony of campaign riffs and post-election tweets, two central themes have emerged as apparent pillars of Donald Trump’s foreign policy vision: ending Islamist terrorism, and constraining China. In some ways, Trump is not so different from modern presidential predecessors whose early ambitions were focused on a few big ideas in response to the world as they saw it. READ MORE

Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2017

In this year’s Foresight Africa, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative scholars and outside experts explore six overarching themes that provide opportunities for Africa to overcome its obstacles to spur fruitful and inclusive growth. These six interconnected, crossing-cutting themes demonstrate the prospects for Africa’s success for its policymakers, businessmen and women, and all its citizens. By examining such closely intertwined issues, we hope to bring a holistic view of the continent, emphasizing that with each challenge there is a solution, though it might be found where we least expect it. READ MORE

Reinvigorating U.S. Economic Strategy in the Asia Pacific

The Asia Pacific is home to over half of humanity and many of the world’s largest and most dynamic economies. Over the coming decades, no region of the world will do more to shape U.S. economic fortunes. More than ever before, American jobs and growth are tied to the Asia Pacific, and these opportunities are likely to grow. DOWNLOAD REPORT
Disclaimer: The news articles, blog posts and reports included in “Global Five” are a compilation of global issues coverage from around the world and do not represent in any way or form the views of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte.

Thank You from All of Us at the WACC

Thank you for giving in support of our 2016 Year-End Fundraising campaign.

It’s through generous contributions from our members and friends that the World Affairs Council of Charlotte can continue to be an exceptional resource for international education and global citizenry in our community.

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.― Margaret Mead


2015-2016 Council Scholar: Mariana De Luca (ELL Resource Teacher – CMS)

I am extremely grateful to Wells Fargo, Carolinas Health Care system, Bank of America and UNC Charlotte for funding the World Affairs Council Scholar Award Program which has afforded me the opportunity to attend one of the four residential requirements for the PhD in Applied Linguistics Program I am part of at Lancaster University in England.

Without the financial burden, I was able to focus my time and energy entirely in the program and make the best out of my stay abroad. The residential was filled with experiences that foster growth at so many levels, intellectually and socially. As a result of participating in these diverse interactions, I am able to bring latest trends in the language teaching field to share with educators at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Furthermore, and probably most importantly, I was able to be part of a multicultural and successful learning community which has enhanced my perception of the world.

I participated in conferences, talks and classes which gave me access to knew knowledge and shared experiences. Through such interactions, I was able to identify similarities between school systems in the US and abroad. Interestingly, many of the issues faced abroad are also challenges in the US schools. For example, the world refugee situation as well as globalized economies have forced schools to look at new ways of teaching, one that takes into account the diversity in culture and language and focuses on successful communication and integration. It was valuable to hear that “translanguaging” the dynamic use of two or more languages in the classroom is a spreading practice in Europe and an expanding area of interest for linguists around the world. I found this information significant and worth of further research since a practice such as translanguaging can have a positive impact in the education of CMS students and in the community.

Besides learning about new trends in education and especially in language teaching, I have gained tremendous inspiration from my classmates. I particularly enjoyed getting together not only for the benefit of the intellectual exchanges but also to cheer each other up when the gray and rainy UK weather lowered our spirits. The social aspect of the residential will also translate into my work in the school. Interacting with diverse populations promotes respect for each other’s cultures and awareness of our personal assumptions that unintentionally may affect communication. Effective cross-cultural communication is essential to build a dynamic and innovative community of educators, especially in bilingual settings. Exposure to diversity has enhanced my appreciation for cultural differences and at the same time has showed me how to tap into each other’s strengths to increase our repertoire of useful resources. Engaging with so many people from around the world was an extraordinary enriching experience which has impacted my personal and professional life and that now I am able to share with other educators in my school.

The award was definitely worthwhile. It provided an experience that cannot be replicated and which will leave an impact beyond myself reaching those I interact with at the workplace and in the community.

Mariana De Luca was one of the recipients of our 2015-2016 Council Scholar grants