Small monetary awards are available to support motivated Penn Carey Law students who are seeking to independently pursue skills development (including language training) for globalized legal tracks.
By Mikaela Wolf-Sorokin L’24, Elizabeth Shackney L’24, and Ava Obrecht L’24
The three of us are public-interest students at Penn Carey Law who plan to do direct services work upon graduation. For the summer between our 1L and 2L year, our goal was to improve our Spanish skills to better assist Spanish-speaking clients and communities in law school and beyond. We believe that we can better advocate for and with clients when we can connect with them in their native language.
After assessing our choices, we decided that Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco, a non-profit language school in Xela, Guatemala, was best suited to our needs. This school offers intensive Spanish courses, with the option to focus on instruction that is tailored toward those in the legal, social work, or healthcare areas. Instruction was one-on-one, and we had the flexibility to choose which weeks we attended, and for how long.
The lessons could be supplemented with an array of cultural and volunteer experiences. We went to conferences through the school on corruption in the public educational system, attended weaving classes, and learned about the current political landscape in Guatemala.
We came to the program with varying experiences speaking and writing in Spanish, but we all improved our Spanish skills noticeably during the program. We have since used these improved language skills in different internship and pro bono capacities to better communicate with clients from various backgrounds. Mikaela, for instance, drew on her legal Spanish training during an externship at the Nationalities Service Center.
Our language-learning experience was supported by Micro Grants for Global Skills from the Penn Carey Law Office of International Affairs. We suggest that other students who are interested in developing legal language skills to carve out time in their schedules for intensive study. We are so grateful for our experience and hope to build on it with further real-world practice and study in the future.