When I first came to the University of Michigan from Atlanta, Georgia, I intended on just studying music in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. However,after coming to the University of Michigan and seeing the plethora of academic opportunities available, I knew I had to build a diverse academic experience that expanded upon all of my interests. The Romance Languages and Literatures major offered me exactly that.
My interest in languages started in middle school and high school, where I constantly vacillated between French and Spanish as a second language. I had always struggled deciding which language I preferred. While I exclusively studied music my first year at Michigan, my thirst for language exploration resurged.Guided by amazing, understanding advisors in the RLL department, I managed to continue my music degree and add on my Romance Languages and Literatures degree, which allowed me to pursue my interests in French and Spanish equally. I was excited!
I initially thought that the major would only improve my proficiency in the languages. I was wrong. I found myself taking a course on France Noire (Black France), a course that submerged me in the legendary, revolutionary of Afro-French writers such as Franz Fanon and Aimé Cesaire. I also studied amazing Latin Marxist figures such as Bolivar Echeverria, who wrote on whiteness defined in terms of modern capitalistic trends, or Salvador Allende, whose fierce advocacy for Chilean socialism brought him to his grave. Studying these political trends in these courses taught me that the RLL major was not exclusively linguistic – the incredibly well-researched, knowledgeable, and passionate faculty taught us a canon of history, politics, culture, and revolutionary material.The only difference was this canon was outside of the Anglo-American tradition.
My thirst for new knowledge outside of the Anglo-American tradition led me to want to study abroad in France, where I went to the Institut d'études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). This was one of the most transformative moments of my undergraduate career: I could finally break away from the Anglo-American educational tradition I was used to and study politics in a different language, in a different country. One of my most profound experiences there was studying the Etat-Providence (Welfare State), a course which highlighted the development of welfare state models in all of Europe, something that inspired me to brainstorm new social models for the United States. So many solutions to the world’s problems already exist, but sometimes the only reason they aren’tanalyzed is that they just are not in English!
My RLL courses gave me a new lens through which I was able to see the world’s problems: I could analyze American racial issues through Franz Fanon, and social welfare and poverty solutions through French and Latin-American models of social funding. I became interested in applying practically all of what I learned. As a result, I decided to take on Public Policy – a domain where I felt I would be able to effect positive change in the world – and I will be pursuing aMaster’s Degree in Public Policy in the Fall. My entire experience as an RLL student was professionally, academically, and emotionally enriching and I am incredibly grateful to the vast array of supportive, loving, and passionate faculty who have mentored and guided me through my intellectual development.