Daicy Hexiao Yu

When I came to the University of Michigan, I had no idea that I would fall in love with learning languages and develop a dream of living abroad. Learning English as a second language helped me develop a natural grasp on grammar rules and techniques with memorizing vocabs, so I enjoyed learning Spanish in high school, although I never expected myself to know more Spanish than simply using it with classmates. However, the courses offered at the University of Michigan changed me without me realizing it; they advanced not only my fluency level but also my interest in the Hispanic culture and understanding of Latin American politics. One course, The “Environmentalization” of Social Struggles in Latin America, was one of the hardest classes I’ve taken but also one from which I learned the most, and it combined both my interest in Spanish and my major in the Environment, intertwining two areas in which I plan to pursue in the future. I never thought I would one day be able to read journal articles on social movements in advanced Spanish, but the courses and professors at the University of Michigan prepared and challenged me to go further in this pursuit. 

The journey of learning French was also unexpected. Unfortunately - or maybe fortunately - I had a late orientation in freshman year, so I was disappointed to find that all the Spanish classes at my level were full. Because learning a foreign language was fun in high school, I wanted to try learning a new language - one that was similar to Spanish so I wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Therefore, I took French 101 during the first semester of freshman year and absolutely loved this language. The intro courses were my favorites, and the course L’atelier d'écriture (Writing Workshop) also improved my writing skill tremendously. To practice speaking, I went to weekly conversation hours for both French (Pause-Café) and Spanish (La Tertulia), and now I still have friend groups with whom we schedule to speak French or Spanish frequently. 

Because these two languages were so fascinating to me, I had originally wanted to double minor in them. However, with the help of RLL advisors, I discovered the Romance Languages and Literatures major - something that was perfect for me. The University of Michigan also helped me find my calling in psychology and the environment; I wanted to combine my knowledge in psychology and my environment major, and use social science to motivate people for collective actions that will benefit the planet earth and human earth. And, to realize my dream to work and live in foreign countries, my language skills will help me better interact with the local communities.

The global pandemic canceled my study abroad in Kenya and Tanzania, but I am now seeking other abroad opportunities: I am taking on a seven-month teaching position in Cantabria, Spain through the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program, and after, I am attending graduate school in the Netherlands, where I will take advantage of the proximity to Spain and France and continue speaking Spanish and French whenever the opportunity allows. The University of Michigan opened the doors to foreign languages for me, which in turn allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and be eager to encounter new cultures. I hope I will carry these skills with me, as well as the love and boldness for the experiences in the world.