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Study abroad experiences give student language, culture perspectives

Connor Haaland in Portugal

French, Spanish and global studies; all majors or topics that may be foreign to some, but not for senior Connor Haaland.

The Rapid City native is working toward completing those majors to go with an economics minor and to have tangible experience in those areas. His first approach to do that was a spring break trip south of San Antonio to a detention center, where he aided immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries seeking asylum in the United States. He acted as a legal assistant, doing the entirety of his work in Spanish. 

Immigration interests Haaland. After he finishes his bachelor’s degrees at South Dakota State University, he looks to go to law school, hoping to become an immigration lawyer with goals of making a positive impact on the disadvantaged communities of the world.

After getting a taste of foreign cultures, Haaland decided to get another perspective by studying abroad for a semester in Paris. Because his French was not as strong as his Spanish, he tried the immersion approach in order to better his language skills. He also had the opportunity to see what France’s immigration was like with refugees in comparison to the U.S.

This summer, Haaland is a governmental policy and affairs fellow for the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. It represents 4.4 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the country. Working with the governmental affairs department, he analyzes and lobbies for legislation pertinent to the cause of the USHCC. Haaland also works alongside the business development team, where he helps promote corporate partnerships with large businesses like AT&T, Toyota and Coca-Cola.

“They form corporate sponsorships with us and by doing that, we help them access the Hispanic marketplace where companies tap into Hispanic buying power,” he said.

Haaland came to SDState with some Spanish knowledge.

“I liked the whole language thing. The professors were great and I wanted to know another language,” he said.

He is looking to become fluent in Spanish. This upcoming semester, Haaland will study abroad in Costa Rica. He will take classes that are composed of mostly native Costa Rican students and live with a Costa Rican host family 80 percent of the time. For students looking to study abroad, Haaland said it’s a must.

“Showing an interest in culture aside from your own is important and study abroad does that,” he said.“The opportunities I have had at SDSU are largely due to my support network like my friends, family and professors. I encourage all students to take advantage of every opportunity, make lasting relationships and have a little fun.”