Meredith Hand (BA'01)

You had me at hola

A high school trip to Cuba and some Latin dancing classes were all it took for Meredith Hand to fall in love with Spanish. It’s a love affair that has informed her life since.

She was 15 when her Bedford, N.S. high school band went on a musical exchange trip to Cuba. It was Meredith’s first real exposure to Spanish and she was blown away by the beauty of the language.

Since her high school didn’t offer any Spanish courses, she got involved in the small but vibrant Latin dancing community in Halifax.

“I like dancing, but it was mainly to learn Spanish—to learn how to count and say ‘left’ and ‘right,’ ” she says. “It was a great way for me to have fun and learn a bit of Spanish at the same time.”

Meredith’s initial plan for university was to do a degree in International Development Studies (IDS) and study Spanish on the side. But as she took more Spanish courses, she realized language was her passion and switched to a combined honours in Spanish and Linguistics.

Overseas adventures

A semester spent in Salamanca, Spain in her third year at Dal reinforced her decision. She immediately fell in love with the country and knew she wanted to return to keep working on her language skills.

“I didn’t know what I was doing after my undergrad, so I decided to apply for a job in Madrid as a teaching assistant for the school board,” she says. “They work in the classroom as examples of their native forms of English and native culture—whether they’re from Canada, the U.K., Australia, or wherever.”

After three years back home working in recruitment for Dal she returned to Spain to do a one-year MA in Translation, Cultural Mediation, and Interpretation at the Universidad de Málaga. At the same time, she was hired as the director of recruitment for an English teaching assistant program in Madrid. When she started, there were 30 native English-speaking assistants in the program; by the time she left two years later, there were 250.

“The vast majority of people working in similar programs in Spain are Americans,” she says. “But over half in this Madrid Catholic School Board’s BEDA Program are Canadians. And the cool thing is that about a quarter of the people have some connection to Dal. Before I started in the job, they were mostly British. I’m so proud there’s such great representation of Canada and Maritimes culture.”

Pursuing a passion

After finishing her MA, Meredith moved to Madrid to do an MBA in Sports Management run by the legendary soccer club, Real Madrid, at the Universidad Europea de Madrid.

“I had developed my Spanish, and while I loved translation I wanted to use the translation, interpretation, and cultural mediation in an international business environment,” she says. “And what better area than sports? It’s such an international industry and you’re dealing with people from different backgrounds all over the world.”

The uncertain economic climate in Europe when she finished her MBA led Meredith back home to Halifax where she now works as the sales manager at the Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites, focusing mainly on corporate sales.

She’s happy to be home, but the Spanish flag sticker on the back of her purple Vespa is proof that part of her heart is still in Spain. And she has her undergrad years to thank for that.

“Honestly, coming to Dal was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” she says. “The reason I am where I am now is because of Dal. I would never have gone to Salamanca and met the people I did if I hadn’t come to Dal. My life would be very different—I can’t even imagine it. I’ll always be grateful to Dal for that, and specifically the Spanish department.”