Sometimes, I cannot explain exactly why I began studying Spanish. There were many instances that happened one after the other that I believe contributed to it, though typically, when people ask me why I decided, at seventeen years old, to begin studying it seemingly at random, I tell them that I made a deal with my mother. (She promised she would pay for me to attend Arabic lessons if I reached a high enough level in Spanish.) Then again, a road trip to Las Vegas may have also contributed, along with an ever-encouraging penpal from Iran.
Later, in a stubborn attempt to not let Spanish fall by the wayside as just another hobby that I abandon once it is no longer a challenge, I involved it in nearly every aspect of my life: for nearly 3 years, I forbade myself from listening to music, reading, writing to penpals, or playing videogames in English, and for the most part, I stuck to it. Not only Spanish, but other languages, as well, managed to seep into every aspect of my life.
There is something mind-altering about studying a foreign language. It is unlike math or computer science; a language is not something to be understood but felt, which only increased my attraction to studying foreign languages. I liked the widening of my world and how learning foreign languages made me see things that I was previously ignorant to, and so I began sampling other languages, some of which—Russian, French, and Catalan, in particular—have also become important in my everyday life.
Although I studied Spanish primarily on my own, I was also studying in college at the same time. I transferred from Macomb Community College to the University of Michigan in the Winter 2017 semester despite all odds. Having come from a non-traditional educational background—first being homeschooled and then having attended community college as a first-generation college student—navigating a large four-year university like Michigan was a unique experience that I had never thought possible. I promised myself to make the most out of my time there, and this promise led two and a half years of near-constant study, culminating in 3 majors, a minor, and the writing of both a capstone project and an honors thesis my senior year. (Plus, I finally made it to Spain!)
I was lucky to be able to implement all of my areas of study—Spanish, Russian, Comparative Literature (and even a little bit of that minor in Translation Studies made it in there!)— in the writing of my honors thesis, “Un ethos compartido: la Rusia de Lope de Vegaen El gran duque,” by writing about the play El gran duque de Moscovia y emperador perseguido by Lope de Vega, a play that challenges viewers to identify themselves with oneof several groups in a study of the representation of our concepts of “us” versus “the other.” Along with the help of my advisor, professor Enrique García Santo-Tomás, writing an honors thesis led me to discover so many different corners of academia, and it was only upon realizing that I successfully completed an honors thesis that I truly understood what academia really was. I began to feel comfortable with a sense of belonging in an academic setting and planned on staying in academia to continue my studies of Spanish and Russian.
However, things have changed a lot. I previously had several plans for the future—those that I thought were well thought-out and safe, though somewhat ambitious. But as the world has changed over the course of the last months of my time in university and during my first months as a college graduate, many of those plans have either evolved, been postponed, or, in some cases, have completely vanished. And as the uncertainty that plagues the world remains with us, plans will continue to evolve, to be postponed, and to vanish. As for right now, I plan on continuing to work as a freelance translator while evaluating the world’s situation to determine if and when I can continue my Spanish and Russian studies into graduate school.