Courses and Requirements

Academic requirements and courses are available in the Vassar College Catalogue.

The curriculum in Hispanic Studies offers instruction in 1) the skills required to comprehend and communicate in Spanish and 2) the cultures and literatures of the Spanish-speaking world. Except for the occasional bilingual seminar on Latino/a Studies, our courses are taught in Spanish.

Every year the department hires a recent university graduate from Spain or Latin America to serve as the Spanish language fellow. The language fellow directs the conversation sessions of our intermediate-level language classes, hosts the weekly Spanish table in the student dining hall, offers individual tutoring, and assists with the department’s cultural activities, such as film festivals and social gatherings. Tutoring is also provided by the academic intern, a senior major selected by the department.

Virtually all Hispanic studies majors and correlates spend at least one semester of study in a Spanish-speaking country. Many majors elect to combine their interest in Spanish language and culture with a second major in another academic department or multidisciplinary program; recent double majors include anthropology, art history, biology, economics, English, history, psychologic science, and other foreign languages. Our graduates have earned advanced degrees in Spanish, comparative literature, international studies, social work, education, law, and medicine or have pursued careers in business, social agencies, the arts, publishing, and teaching.

How to Declare a Major or a Correlate in Hispanic Studies

A student's program of study for the major or correlate is designed in close consultation with a departmental advisor or the Department's Chair. Students seeking to declare a major or correlate should make an appointment with a faculty member or the Chair to review their interests, prior coursework, and remaining requirements, and to select a major or correlate advisor. 

Determining Your Proficiency in Spanish and Course Placement

In lieu of a Placement Exam, our department provides one-on-one counseling during First Year Orientation to determine your level of Spanish language proficiency. Our faculty also provide this mentorship throughout the year in order to guide students toward the most appropriate level of our language and culture curriculum. 

We determine placement according to your previous High School and/or college-level coursework in Spanish in conjunction with your lived experience with the language. Generally speaking:

  • 0–1 years HISP 105/106 Elementary Spanish
  • 2–3 years HISP 205 Intermediate Spanish
  • 4–5 years HISP 206 Reading and Writing in Hispanic Culture (topics vary)
  • 5+ years & AP HISP 216 Interdisciplinary Analysis (topics vary)
  • Heritage Speakers HISP 206 or HISP 216 (depending on fluency and writing skills)

However, you may find it useful to view this video which provides an overview of how we mentor our students during this process. [Please note that, although HISP 109 is mentioned in the video, we no longer offer this course.] Consult with an advisor or Hispanic Department Chair if unsure about the appropriate course for your level.

Hispanic Studies offers a Proficiency Exam on the first day of classes each fall. The exact date and time are published in the First Year Orientation Calendar. A passing grade in this exam fulfills the College’s Foreign Language Requirement. Please note that the results of this exam have no bearing on your course placement.

You can also fulfill the Foreign Language Requirement if you earned a grade of 4 or 5 on the Spanish AP Exam or you have Higher level IB credit. Since all of these grades are on your academic transcripts, the recording of these grades is handled by the Registrar and the Dean of Studies Office.