Students Find Creative Spanish Immersion in Oberlin’s Casa Hispánica

Harvey House offers a variety of opportunities for students to be integrated into a Spanish-speaking environment.

November 22, 2022

Maja Saveva '26

A concert on the courtyard of Harvey House.
A concert performed on the patio of Harvey House for the annual Latino Heritage Festival in 2021.
Photo credit: Jonathan Clark '25

Oberlin College, a campus filled with international and domestic students speaking an array of languages and practicing a spectrum of cultures, has affinity houses for different communities. One such place is the Harvey House, or La Casa Hispánica, which regularly organizes social and cultural events, workshops, and talks. Filled with students who are native-Spanish speakers of Hispanic heritage and non-Hispanic students wanting to immerse themselves in a Spanish-speaking environment, one of the house’s most notable components is its language table—El Rincón.

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during lunch time, native Spanish speakers, students from Spanish 101 classes, and everyone in between gather in a conference room in Stevenson Dining Hall to take advantage of their peers’ willingness to help learn the language. Wayleen Arrieta Ariza, the Hispanic Studies program assistant, says,“I like that you can practice your Spanish or the fact that you can take a topic from class and you can apply it to the table.”

While the Spanish table is one of the more visible learning opportunities offered by the house’s community, Harvey House does a lot more. Events have included trivia and movie nights, celebrations of different holidays, and an annual Latino Festival. The most recent Latino Festival was hosted at a local retail store, Ben Franklin, in early October. Students and faculty showed up to taste home-cooked cuisine, hear Portuguese and Spanish music, and enjoy the opportunity to speak Spanish to peers and professors.

The cultural immersion at Oberlin College doesn’t stop there. For Día de los Muertos, Harvey House organized an event where they put up traditional ofrendas (altars) and invited the community to share in the tradition of the holiday with hot chocolate and pan de muerto, a type of sweet bread prepared for Day of the Dead.

A Day of the Dead altar.
A Day of the Dead ofrenda (altar) in La Casa Hispánica. Photo credit: Madelenne Arredondo '26

Hispanic House also offers a variety of ways for students to engage with the Hispanic community. There are 30 students residing in the house, and according to Ariza, students are required to organize one event during the year. Her favorite house event is almuerzo yuno (brunch) organized by the resident assistant, program assistant, and the director of Harvey House, Yorki Encalada. All events are open to the public, except this brunch, which Ariza says is a great way to bond within the smaller community.

Harvey House is a space for students who wish to integrate themselves into a community they want to learn about, or those looking to live in a familiar environment while speaking the language. As Ariza says, “it’s Spanish immersion in a creative way.”

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