Liliana Saplontai

Liliana Saplontai
11
Major: 
Global Studies and Spanish
Minor: 
Caribbean and Latin American studies
Activities: 
I have been involved in a number of different clubs and organizations, such as: the African Student Union (Vice President- Fall of my sophomore year); Amnesty International and Oxfam (Secretary-Fall of my sophomore year); Dance Ensemble (choreograph and participate in other dances); Mantswe Amantle (new African singing group). I have also held positions as a Community Assistant- Fall of my sophomore year. I am still currently an Admissions ambassador (Tour guide and work in admissions); I am also a peer tutor for Spanish, Anthropology and Psychology, and a teacher assistant for Spanish Lab; I work for Calling All Saints as a student substitute, and I have participated in Intramural Soccer.

I was born in 1988 in Johannesburg, South Africa, even though my family was living in Botswana. I grew up and lived in Botswana where I graduated from high school; my parents still live there today. My parent’s heritage, however, is Romanian. The majority of my relatives still live in Romania, but I also have family in Israel (from my mother’s side as she is a Romanian Jew). My parents moved to Israel in 1981 and left for Botswana in 1984. I completed high school in Botswana and was elected for one of the scholarships offered by my high school to do a post-graduate year at a high school in the States. In 2006, I left Botswana to do the Post-Grad year at the Taft School in Connecticut. While I was there, I applied to colleges in the States, including St. Lawrence. I chose St. Lawrence because I was given a scholarship. Nonetheless, I was delighted and grateful for the opportunity to come study here, primarily because of the many opportunities the college has to offer.

The study abroad programs were one of the determining and motivating factors for my final decision, especially considering my interests in International relations/affairs/development and languages. From experience, I have learned that the best way to learn a language is by immersing oneself in the culture where the language is spoken, allowing one to hear and speak it every day. I had that opportunity when I went to Costa Rica earlier this year, and came back able to converse in Spanish. I speak five languages- English, Romanian, Spanish, French and Setswana (language spoken in Botswana), though some I understand better than I can speak them. My mother is a French professor at my high school in Botswana and speaks six languages, five of them fluently. She is excellent at languages. I believe her aptitude for languages might have influenced or accounted for my ability to pick up Spanish somewhat more quickly than others. I began learning Spanish at St. Lawrence at the 101 level, then continued to SPAN 102 second semester. I then jumped to SPAN 201 (third semester), in order to fulfill the requirement for studying abroad in Costa Rica. My step-father, who lives in Botswana with my mother, is Cuban, however he never spoke Spanish to me as he wanted to practice his English. Now that I am able to converse in the language, I make it a point to talk to him in Spanish as much as possible. I have often been asked, “Why Spanish?” A major part of the answer has to do with the influence from my Cuban step-father. He has exposed me to a lot of the Latin culture, including music, dance and the Spanish language. Before even going to college, I was fixed on learning the language and pursuing a Spanish major at the university I intended to study at. Being a brilliant Latin dancer, my step-father also taught me Latin dances such as Salsa and Merengue. The culture became a part of my blood and I fell in love with it.

I have loved learning Spanish at SLU, but particularly because of my Spanish professor, Professor Ilia Casanova, who taught me for the first three semesters at St. Lawrence. I do not have classes with her this semester but she has been my advisor since my sophomore year. She is an amazing individual, with a heart of gold. She has assisted, supported and encouraged me in the language and in myself since I started taking Spanish classes with her, and especially just before I was leaving abroad for Costa Rica. I do not believe I would have made it thus far in Spanish without her care, help, hard-work, and most importantly her encouragement and faith in me. I love languages and I have learned, especially after having traveled to a number of countries, how beautiful and beneficial languages are, but also essentially, how important they are. One of the most frustrating things is not being able to communicate with others, or express an idea or opinion, because that prevents you from learning from other people and about other cultures.

I certainly do not consider myself a master at any language, but I am very open, ready and willing to continue learning and growing in every language I am familiar with now, as well as continue to learn others. The next two languages on my list are Italian and Thai.