AUBG Professor of Spanish Lucia Lopez-Vazquez: 'I love what I do'
Lucia Lopez-Vazquez, a professor of Spanish at AUBG, joined the university after working in Italy and Cape Verde. Her passion for languages led her to obtain two Master’s degrees from the University of Vigo and the University of Alcalá in Spain. After that, she went back to University of Vigo for her PhD studies. Professor Lopez-Vazquez says she always comes to her workplace with a smile on her face because she finds teaching Spanish to AUBG students a very rewarding job. Read our interview with Professor Lopez-Vazquez, who's Spanish-Galician bilingual and is fluent in French, Italian, English, Greek, Portuguese and Cape Verdean, to learn more about her work experience, teaching and research interests and what she likes doing in her spare time.
What are the three most intriguing things the AUBG community should know about you?
I live with a Cape Verdean cat and a Greek dog. I design most of my clothes. I never forget a student (at least I haven’t yet!).
What can you tell us about your academic background and your experience obtaining a PhD from the University of Vigo in Spain? When did you first become interested in teaching Spanish?
I majored in Translation and Interpreting (French-Spanish). I always had a real passion for languages and especially French, so it seemed the right choice for me. I specialized in interpreting, but at some point I had many foreign friends around asking me for help learning Spanish. I was used to teaching French, but now I realized how little I knew about my own language. That led me to enroll in a Master’s Degree in Spanish as a Foreign Language at the University of Alcalá. In my last year as an undergraduate student in Vigo I met my friend, mentor and PhD Advisor, Dr. Inmaculada Montero, and I knew she was the right person to guide me through the whole process, so I returned to Vigo for my PhD. To be honest, when I think of my university years, I always think of my PhD years because I made very special friendships during that time and I found my passion for Pragmatics.
What was the first work position you have had? How has your career developed since then? Why did you decide to become a professor and what led you to AUBG?
I had a short TA position in Vigo when I started my PhD, but my first work position was actually in Bulgaria. I spent one year teaching in Plovdiv at the Paisiy Hilendarski University. I have great memories of that first year in Bulgaria and the wonderful students I had there. After that, I worked in Italy at the Università degli Studi di Torino for a couple of years and later on in Cape Verde, at the only public university in the country. That diversity of students, cultures, languages, and learning environments has made me very adaptable and has taught me more than I could have ever asked for. One day I thought it was about time to come back to Europe. I had an interview with AUBG, and a few months later I was flying to Sofia. I already knew Bulgaria and I was very happy to come back.
What are your teaching and research interests?
My main research interests are Pragmatics and Linguistic Landscape.
How can you describe your typical work day at AUBG?
I’m in my office quite early in the morning. I prepare for classes, see students, grade homework, and go to my classes. When I can find the time, I work on my research. It might seem boring, but if you add some coffee, nice chats with colleagues, and nice music, it’s a very nice way to spend your day. I love it! I always come to the Main Building with a smile on my face.
What is it like teaching Spanish in English to students from all over the world?
I don’t think I use much English in my classes. We have two classes a week to learn Spanish and we need to use the language as much as we can. It can be challenging at the beginning, but it pays off.
What moments and students achievements give you greatest satisfaction?
Teaching a language to foreign students is a very rewarding job. They get into your class one day, some of them because they’ve seen a movie or a TV show in Spanish they liked, some of them because they heard a catchy song and they’re curious to know what it’s about. I don’t know how many of them are really aware of how transforming a new language can be. It opens your mind to new cultures, new realities, and new opportunities. Some students have moved to Spain or other Spanish-speaking countries; they’ve found partners there, friends. After three years at AUBG I see the students I had in my first year. They walked into the first class and we learnt numbers and colors. And suddenly, three years later, I find myself discussing Spanish politics in Spanish with some of these same students. I hope they’re aware of the amazing work they’ve done.
If teaching was not your profession, what would have been?
That’s a difficult question. I love what I do, but there are so many things I find interesting, maybe an art curator, or a real estate agent. I’ve always dreamt of running a small B&B next to the sea, with many dogs, a couple of goats and a donkey.
What are the foreign languages you want to learn to the extent you know Spanish?
I’m Spanish-Galician bilingual. I’m fluent in French, Italian, English, Greek, Portuguese and Cape Verdean. It’s easy to put languages in a list, but it takes time, patience, and so much effort to learn them. I’d be more than satisfied if I could learn some Bulgarian. I always say that these languages were not a choice, but they happened to me. I just embraced the chance to learn them. Who knows which languages will happen to me in the future?!
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I spend time with my dog, go to the theater, read a lot and never say no when someone asks me to go out. So I actually spend a lot of my free time socializing.