East Carolina University student Michael Sciacca discovered his passion for the Spanish language in high school.
A native of Apex, Sciacca was initially active in performance arts. In fact, he did not begin taking Spanish courses until he was a sophomore in high school. "I avoided Spanish for most of the two years of high school, but I realized I really liked it and took all the courses available to me," he said.
Now a senior at ECU, Sciacca is majoring in Hispanic Studies. "I came to ECU as an undecided major, but I was taking Spanish courses on the side. I thought I wanted to be a vocal performance major. But the Spanish classes were so fulfilling, I decided to officially declare my major my sophomore year."
Sciacca is an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Almitra Medina in the foreign languages department, where he studies second-language Spanish acquisition among native English-speaking university students in the intermediate and upper levels of Spanish.
"Being a research assistant has given me insight on how to be a better researcher and academic. Working one-on-one with a professor has helped me create meaningful professional relationships and has prepared me for later academic work," Sciacca said. "The faculty here has really inspired me. They are passionate about what they do and they encourage us to reach our goals."
Sciacca is also a Spanish tutor at the Pirate Academic Success Center. "I really enjoy being a tutor," he said. "It has allowed me to meet other students, and it's very rewarding to get others exciting about learning Spanish. Tutoring has solidified my love of teaching."
In addition to his tutoring responsibilities, Sciacca is the president of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Hispanic Honors Society. He also serves on the Council of Student Ambassadors of Foreign Languages and Literatures, where he represents the programs at open houses and other recruiting events on campus.
He was nominated by faculty and won the Fleming-Perry Scholarship through the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. To be considered for the award, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 overall and in foreign language courses, participation in departmental affairs, commitment to co-curricular activities and interest in international and multicultural diversity.
In 2016, Sciacca won the Sigma Delta Pi undergraduate summer study abroad award to travel to Granada, Spain. He will return to Spain this summer.
"Studying abroad was a life-changing experience. My favorite part was being able to live with a host family, which was especially rewarding because they involved me in their lives and treated me like a part of their family. We went out to eat, took guitar lessons and saw live bands together," he said. "Being immersed in the culture significantly improved my language skills."
Following graduation, Sciacca will attend North Carolina State University graduate school for Spanish linguistics, focusing on applied and socio-linguistics.
Said Sciacca, "When you love something and have a passion for it, you want to do it forever. I can't imagine doing anything except Spanish in academia." He plans on continuing his education to become a professor of Spanish.
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year?
I wish I had known about all the activities available to students on campus.
What advice do you have for other students? Do what makes you happy
Written by: Sophronia Knott
Photography by: Cliff Hollis