Cross-cultural in-class, outside opportunities define Olivia Culp

Posted Oct 11, 2023

By Payton Kaufman ’23 

Whether senior political science and Spanish-language major* Olivia Culp ’24 is traveling throughout the Americas on a study trip or simply commuting across town for an internship, her passion for international culture shines brightly while on display. 

That’s because Culp has been pursuing her passion for different cultures throughout high school in Cleveland, simultaneously mentoring refugees while taking Spanish language courses. 

“The more I learned in my Spanish classes, the more fascinated I became with the culture,” Culp said. 

After enrolling at Otterbein, Culp was pleased to find that the Spanish courses focused on Latino culture, and “just happened to be in Spanish,” Culp mused. Culp studied abroad in Costa Rica during spring 2023.

“My study abroad program, facilitated by the Spanish department, was absolutely life- changing,” Culp said. “I’ve always had a strong desire to travel and work with international people and it was very valuable to work in Costa Rica.” 

Culp’s out-of-the-classroom experiences don’t stop there. For the past two years, Culp has interned at a local immigration law firm. The introduction between Culp and the firm was made in her international law course when a guest speaker, her later supervisor, excited her to this field of law.  

Large Olivia Culp

“I have seen a clear line between what I’ve learned in class to what I am doing at the law firm,” Culp said. “I also get to develop my Spanish speaking abilities because I communicate with native Spanish-speaking clients and co-workers.” 

Throughout her internship Culp has come to identify some of the misinformation spread in the media about immigration. 

“There’s widespread misinformation spread about immigrants that is harmful and untrue,” Culp said. “The rhetoric about immigrants is awful.” 

Her growing understanding of the American immigration system has informed Culp’s post- graduate plans. First, she hopes to teach English in Peru first, then plans to attend law school and make a difference during her career. 

“Our immigration system is outdated, backlogged and messy and that leads to so many problems,” Culp said. 

Culp hopes she can make a positive impact on the system, as much as the Latino culture has made an impact on her.

Q and A with senior history/Spanish major Olivia Culp

Q. Why should someone study history/Spanish & Latin American Studies, at Otterbein?

  • Studying political science and/or Spanish at Otterbein is a fantastic way to be a global citizen. These majors will make you an informed individual on both domestic and global politics, while also giving you cultural appreciation for Spanish speaking counties. This field of study is also very versatile. It lends itself well to pre-law or teaching English to Spanish speakers abroad, as I currently plan to do. It also is very flexible, which is perfect for students looking to study abroad, one of the most rewarding things a person can do in college.

Q. What’s the best part of having your major combination?

  • My major combination allows me to have a Latin American focus in my politics studies and a political focus in my Spanish classes. The historical context I gain in politics courses gives me a unique perspective when discussing modern Latino cultural phenomenon in my Spanish courses. This combination prepared me wonderfully to study abroad in Costa Rica. I was able to advance my language skills while also gaining historical and political knowledge about the region I was traveling to. This helped me have a deeper understanding of Costa Rican culture.

Q. How did your internship with the Immigration law firm enhance your studies?

  • My internship turned the information I learned in a classroom into practical skills. I learned to write country condition reports for my final exam in International Law, and later complied those same reports for real asylum cases. Getting to put my knowledge to good use, specifically to better the lives of our clients at the immigration law firm, is very rewarding. I’m grateful that I can use what I’ve been taught to positively impact people. 

Q. How have your professors impacted you at Otterbein?

  • My professors, specifically those in the political science department, have opened doors for me in my field. They invited attorney Jessica Rodriguez Bell to present to our class which allowed me to make a connection and ultimately land my current internship. They have also encouraged me to make my degree my own. Between studying abroad and applying for an independent study in the spring, I’ve really been able to personalize my coursework and trajectory here. My professors have been the ones showing me what options are available and helping me pursue them.

Q. What will you miss most about being on campus?

  • I will miss the feeling of community. When I walk around campus, I know I will run into students, professors, or baristas I’ve befriended during my time here. I also appreciate the security of campus. I can walk from place to place without anxiety for my safety. I especially love how open Otterbein’s campus is. As a humanities major, I mainly have classes in Towers and Roush. However, knowing that I’m welcome to study in the science building or play piano in Batelle makes me feel very at home here. I will certainly miss that feeling.

*Olivia is also pursuing minors in Race & Ethnic Studies and Legal Studies.