I came into the University of Michigan looking to build an undergraduate experience unique from those that others were pursuing. As one of the smallest majors at Michigan, and Michigan being one of the few US universities to offer it, the degree in Romance Languages and Literatures became exactly what I was looking for.
I had discovered a passion and a talent for the Spanish language in high school. Amazed by the real and authentic cross-cultural relationships that language learning had opened me up to, I knew I wanted to keep going; I was eager to learn more. I started the intensive French language program in the Residential College my freshman year. Aided by my background in Spanish, and through hours of hard work and encouragement from devoted and talented faculty, I surpassed the requirements of the course and worked my way through four semesters of French in just one semester’s time. It wasn’t long before I was learning Italian too; as anyone with a similar passion for languages knows, it's hard to stop!
Soon afterward, I found myself taking RLL courses exploring the world of nineteenth-century bohemian Paris through the writings of Victor Hugo and Émile Zola, analyzing the influence of Karl Marx on twentieth-century Romance thinkers through the philosophy of Louis Althusser and the poetry of José María Arguedas, and measuring the revolutionary potential of new media of art through the films of Luis Buñuel and Pier Paolo Pasolini.
All of this culminated in a year spent studying abroad: one semester in Madrid, the other in Paris. Taking courses at two of the premier universities of Europe, I was able to study under extraordinarily talented faculty and build friendships with European students who shared my same interests.
When I wasn’t studying, I was exploring the cities around me, engaging with all the cultures of urban life. I began collecting the personal experiences that would form the basis for my senior honors thesis on the Bohemian artistic movements of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Paris and Madrid, written under the direction of Professor Michèle Hannoosh. With my research, I sought to examine this urban culture as both a socio-historical group made up of real artists and writers and a mythical persona represented on the pages of a book or on the canvas of a painting.
In addition to my major in RLL, I graduated with a minor in History. One of the most amazing things for me was to find in the language evidence of historical events; clues of sorts to the experiences of Romance speakers centuries ago. To give just one example, evidence of the Arab conquest of the Iberian Peninsula from over half a millennium ago can be found in the usage of Arabic words in Spanish and Portuguese today.
Additionally, the combination of my skills in languages and knowledge of history opened the door for what became the most extraordinary experience of my undergraduate career. I spent the summer of 2017 (just after my semester in Paris) interning as a tour guide at two Renaissance châteaux in the French countryside of the Dordogne region. Housed in the châteaux with the family, I got to live the life of the French aristocracy for a couple of months! This is just one example of the many such opportunities to which studying language can open the door.
Looking forward, I am planning on applying to PhD programs, likely in comparative literature, in order to continue my work with the Romance Languages. If not that, I have also always been interested in diplomacy and opportunities in the Foreign Service. One of the best things about languages is that they can be applied to so many different disciplines and career paths, the challenge becomes choosing which one you want to follow!