A Passion for Language


La lengua nos conecta todos juntos. En nuestra socieded, el español es la lengua más común además ingles. Cuando vení a la Universidad de Nebraska Wesleyan, no tenía pensamientos de aprender otra lengua. Pero después de mi segundo semestre, encontré una nueva pasión que me exigía tratar de entender una cultura compartido por tanta gente. Estoy emocionado decirlos a ustedes sobre mi viaje de aprender español.

Language connects us. In the United States, Spanish is the second most spoken language after English. When I came to Nebraska Wesleyan University, I did not plan to learn another language. But after my second semester, I found a new passion that requires me to try to understand a culture shared by so many people. I am excited to tell you about my journey of learning Spanish.

Hola clasé! ¿Cómo están hoy? Silence. I remember thinking: “What have I gotten myself into?” It was the beginning of my second semester at Nebraska Wesleyan, a cold winter’s day in January, or as Profesora Whyrick would say, “Hace frío hoy y está un poco nublado.” But after my first week in Spanish 1, it did not matter that the weather was cold and cloudy. My brain was bursting with the warmth and joy of exposure to a new language.

Every day that I went into class, all thirty-something of us students (pre-COVID, of course) received the same unmatched teaching from Katharine Whyrick, instructor of Spanish. In all my years of schooling, the two classes that I have taken with her have been the most instrumental and impactful in my educational career. I recently sat down with her to talk about her story with the language, what she gains from helping students, and why the financial support of alumni and friends is important for faculty at NWU.

When the NWU community invests in faculty, they can, in turn, invest their time and talent in NWU students.

Prof. Whyrick was born and raised in Lincoln. Her first taste of Spanish came while attending Lincoln East High School, just a few miles from Nebraska Wesleyan. “During my sophomore year, I took a school-sponsored trip abroad where I lived with a host family in Madrid and went to high school with the students with whom I shared a home.”

Her time in Spain aided her progress in learning the complexities of the language; more importantly, the trip showed her an entirely different way of living. Communication shapes our lives. If we do not have a basic understanding of the culture, norms, and characteristics related to another language that differ from our own lifestyle, conjugating verbs and memorizing vocabulary cannot help us connect with native speakers of that language.

Initially, Prof. Whyrick’s experience in Spain did not spur any aspirations to teach Spanish. While in graduate school, however, she was offered the opportunity to have her education paid for if she taught Spanish 1 or Spanish 2 courses. “That was how I was exposed to teaching, and I fell in love with it then.”

Now in her ninth year at Nebraska Wesleyan, Prof. Whyrick has settled into her role as a teacher and coordinator of the material taught in the lower-level Spanish courses. While discussing the many goals she has as a professor of language, she remained adamant in her belief that as many students as possible should study abroad.

“To be able to go outside of the borders of this country and experience more of the world is hands-down the most life-changing thing that can happen for an individual.”

Prof. Whyrick comes to the classroom every day with the same goal in mind. She wants students to use Spanish to express themselves in a new way and to enjoy creating interpersonal connections.

Since taking intro-level Spanish courses with Prof. Whyrick, I have begun speaking Spanish every day. Whether having conversations with myself, speaking to my friends (who wonder what I am saying), on the baseball field around my teammates also learning the language, or in my mind right before I fall asleep, it is a non-stop learning process.

“My brain was bursting with the warmth and joy of exposure to a new language.”

Prof. Whyrick explains why she invests her talents in helping students learn Spanish and the importance of alumni and friends investing in beyond-the-classroom opportunities: “I think it goes back to my personal reward of seeing students engage with the language, to then be able to put them in situations where they can use it outside of the classroom in the real world.”

The Archway Fund supports life-changing opportunities beyond the classroom, including study abroad (when international travel is possible), and faculty like Prof. Whyrick. Working in the Advancement office, I’ve learned that alumni and friends are vital in giving our incredible professors the tools and skills they need to share their passions with students like me. When the NWU community invests in faculty, they can, in turn, invest their time and talent in NWU students.

My classmates and I are grateful for the exceptional teaching and mentorship of Profesora Whyrick, and my gratitude extends to the alumni and friends who make her investment in my learning possible.

NWU professors across the university inspire students to pursue passions and careers that make a difference. When you invest in faculty through the Archway Fund, you invest in generations of students and the impact they will make in Nebraska and around the world.

—John Haimowitz '23

Learn more about the Archway Fund: https://www.nebrwesleyan.edu/give/annual-gifts.

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