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Community Interpreter Internship with the VU Law School Clinics

Designed in 2001 by Professors Beth Lyon of the Villanova Law School Clinics and Mercedes Juliá, Professor of Spanish of the Department of Romance Languages, the Spanish Internship offers a unique experience to students interested in helping the Hispanic Community by translating and interpreting for student lawyers. The program is very much at the core of what Villanova University is all about: learning while also giving of yourselves to others. Many students have participated in the Internship Program during these past years and have found the experience very worthwhile and stimulating.

Community interpreting is a vital service for people with limited language proficiency who face language barriers accessing important services such as education, health, social security, housing, and legal representation. In response to the need for community interpreters, the Department of Romance Languages offers an internship designed for undergraduate students with advanced proficiency in Spanish who seek to apply their linguistic and cultural competencies in a real-world setting. Students attend a seminar course while working as interpreters in the Law School Clinic, which serves low-income clients throughout Pennsylvania. The course prepares students to be verbal interpreters and translators, from English to Spanish or vice versa, by introducing them to the basic strategies for written translation and oral interpretation. This includes an introduction to consecutive interpretation, general and legal translation, and specific linguistic areas relevant to the needs of the Law School Clinic clients. This community-based learning course allows the student intern to use his/her Spanish abilities while helping Villanova law students represent clients. In order to satisfy the internship requirement, students need to complete 150 hours of work (30 course semester hours + 120 hours of service at the Law School Clinic). Internships are graded S/U.

After successful completion of the internship, students will be able to:

  • apply consecutive interpretation skills in a real-world setting.
  • demonstrate accurate and faithful translation in the target language.
  • develop the ability to process linguistic information quickly and make fast decisions while interpreting telephonic and face-to-face interviews with native Spanish speakers.
  • acquire the necessary skills and lexical competence to be able to translate legal documents and correspondence.
  • develop awareness of different migration issues that the Hispanic and Latino community face across Pennsylvania and in other parts of the US.


In order to participate in the course as an intern, the student must have native or near-native command of both Spanish and English and an overall GPA of 3.00 or higher. The interns must be a sophomore, junior or a senior at the time of the internship. Freshmen students will also be considered upon special permission of the Chair of Romance Languages.

Preference will be given in the following order: Spanish majors and minors, native speakers of Spanish, and, finally, students from fields of study others than Spanish. The Spanish Internship will count (3 credits) towards the Spanish Major and/or Minor and 3 credits for an elective course.


How to Apply

Schedule an appointment for an interview with Dr. Raúl Diego Rivera Hernández to discuss your language skills. Students who are currently studying abroad will have the opportunity to be interviewed via skype. There is also an application form to be completed in order to determine the eligibility of the student to be an intern.

Spanish Internship Application

* InternshipRequirements-Spring2019.pdf
Spanish Internship Application
Spanish Internship 2019

Testimonies of Interns and Mentors

Pamela Espinoza, Spanish and English major

He tenido el placer y el privilegio de trabajar como intérprete de español por tres años en la Clínica Legal de la Universidad de Villanova. Como mentora, he aprendido mucho sobre el sistema legal y especialmente las dificultades que enfrentan los inmigrantes cuando vienen a este país. Además, tengo la oportunidad de trabajar junto con profesores de leyes, estudiantes y defensores que dedican sus vidas a mejorar nuestro sistema legal y nuestra sociedad. Como mentora he sido testigo de las formas en que la Clínica ha cambiado la vida de las personas que vienen a buscar ayuda en tiempos desesperados.

Deborah Alvarenga, Spanish and Criminology major

Working in the clinical program, both as an intern and now as a mentor, has provided me with an incredible opportunity to work for justice for migrants and refugees right here on my college campus. My parents are immigrants from Honduras, and all of my extended family and my community back home in New Orleans are also immigrants from Latin America so the work that is done in the clinic is really important to me. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to use my ability to speak two languages to break language barriers and serve the Latinx community. I have also learned so much more about the legal process and the struggles of migrants and refugees by directly hearing their stories and doing the work of making sure that they are heard and understood. As an interpreter, there is something very powerful and humbling about sharing real, heartbreaking stories in the first-person and being a voice for people facing injustices.

Sophia Hernandez, Biology Major and Latin American Studies minor

During the Fall of 2016, I participated in the Community Interpreter Internship at the VU Law School Clinics. As an intern, with the help of the mentors and Professors, I learned how to interpret meetings of student lawyers and their clients, how to ensure that the written translation was accurate, and many skills that would help me perfect my written and oral Spanish. The next year, I was offered the opportunity to become a mentor and help the interns learn and grow throughout the semesters. As a mentor I continued to form great relationships with the faculty of the VU Law School Clinic, I have developed leadership skills, learned about the justice system in the Philadelphia area, and learned about the current issues that dominate in Central and South America. My work has not been limited to Asylum and Farm-worker cases, I have also had the opportunity to work with the Tax and Health Clinics since the clients that come to our Clinic have an array of needs that we try to aid with. It has been an enriching and rewarding experience, I have developed a passion for Latin American studies and a love for the Spanish language, apart from knowing that by using a skill that I previously had, I am facilitating many conversations that could have been impossible, and making a positive impact in the lives of many people.


Tomas Hildago-Nava
Assistant Professor of Spanish
Co-Director, Community Interpreter Internship Program

Caitlin Barry
Assistant Professor of Law
Director of the Farmworker Legal
Aid Clinic
Co-Director, Community Interpreter Internship Program


Mentors at the Clinic: