Two people smile together with red pins that say SP on their chests in front of a Welcome Language Schools Students Sign.
Vanessa and Chuck on arrival day, sporting their School of Spanish pins! 

Chuck and Vanessa Nicholls share about their experience at our School of Spanish

Tell us more about what you are doing professionally/personally and why you enrolled in the 7-week Spanish program with Middlebury?

Chuck: I am currently a graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver, pursuing my master’s in business administration and master’s in international business degrees. I have been in the Air Force for 13 years and I also work at the University of Colorado Denver Institute for International Business as the veteran student coordinator.

I have been learning Spanish on and off over the years, but I needed more structure to take my Spanish to the next level, something I knew the Middlebury Language Schools could offer. I want to be able to use my Spanish both on a personal level when I’m traveling or talking with friends and family, and on a professional level in business after I graduate.
— Chuck Nicholls, School of Spanish '23

Vanessa: I am currently a trauma therapist and I enrolled so I may serve the Spanish-speaking population.

A woman holds up white boards in her dorm room with Spanish grammar practice written on them
Vanessa and Chuck practice their Spanish grammar in their suite in Milliken Hall. 
A college dorm made of gray stone during a summer sunset.
Milliken Hall

What was it like to do the program as a married couple?

Chuck: It was an incredible experience being able to attend the program with my wife. Being restricted to communicating solely in Spanish was certainly frustrating at times – especially arguing in Spanish, but it made us that much better. We both excelled in different aspects of Spanish – I was better with grammar, conjugating, and writing, whereas she was significantly better with listening comprehension, accent, and pronunciation. We were able to practice with each other throughout the 7 weeks, which was primarily her helping me with my pronunciation.

Vanessa: It was really fun, specifically because we had something we were doing together. At first, it was very challenging sticking to speaking Spanish to one another, but it is helpful that I can understand it fairly well and that Chuck had been practicing prior. I can’t imagine how we would do it if we didn’t know the language at all though…we probably would just be doing a lot of pointing and looking at the dictionary…which we did do at times.

A group of friends smiles at the camera.
A couple dressed up as elderly folks holds up their costume contest prize.
Chuck and Vanessa: School of Spanish costume contest couples champions!

What was your living situation like on the Middlebury campus? Did you see each other for meals/events/etc.?

Chuck: We lived in a suite in Milliken Hall. Although we attended many events together throughout the program (costume contest couples champions!), we also enjoyed our time apart to meet new people in the program. We were in the same level, but in different classes, so we would meet up for meals together most of the time.

Vanessa: We got to share a room in a suite with another married couple. There are separate beds, but we put ours together. The rooms are very hot and humid so be sure to order a fan as soon as you can!

Students sit in the audience in an auditorium, one student speaks into a microphone

What advice would you give to students thinking about enrolling in the program with a spouse or someone they know?

Chuck: Attending the program with a spouse or significant other is an amazing experience. It may be difficult at first to alter your relationship to where you can only communicate in another language 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but it is totally worth the experience. There are so many activities and events hosted at the school, and you and your spouse may not want to do all of the same things. I’d recommend finding the activities you really want to do and using that opportunity to meet new people and try new things. 

A group of students sits outside at a local restaurant at golden hour.
Chuck and Vanessa out to dinner in the town of Middlebury with their friends from the School of Spanish. 
Our program had such a diverse group of students, with unique careers, backgrounds, and experiences. We loved participating in events together, but we were okay with doing things apart as well. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet and network with other people in the program and your class.
— Chuck Nicholls, School of Spanish '23

Vanessa: Be patient with one another, especially if you are both on the same level. Have fun by doing things around and outside campus and explore! Cocktail/Coffee study dates are something I would recommend as well.

Are you using your Spanish after Middlebury?

Chuck: Following the program, I took several Spanish classes at my university to further advance in the language. I continue to meet with an online tutor once a week to practice my Spanish. Although my wife and I are not speaking Spanish together as much as we intended, we are trying to slowly incorporate more and more Spanish into our daily lives. We are beginning to take online lessons together and we go to a Spanish meet-up group every few weeks at a local restaurant. 

Vanessa: Surprisingly, Chuck and I are not speaking Spanish to one another as much as I would have hoped. But we get in some Spanish words here and there. I don’t know what it is about Middlebury that kept us committed to speaking only Spanish to one another. I have been able to speak more comfortably with Spanish speakers, but I am not proficient enough to provide therapy quite yet.

A couple smiles in front of the river in the town of Middlebury, Vermont