My undergraduate career began with an SMTD major in Musicology and an undeclared major in LSA. I knew that I wanted to pursue a degree in music as well as in an area of LSA, but I always had trouble choosing between my interests. After my first year, I realized I wanted my time in SMTD to be centered on my growth as a singer and auditioned into the Voice department. My other academic inclinations were to be directed towards a second major in Cognitive Science, which combined several of my interests in Linguistics, Psychology, and Philosophy into one umbrella field. I knew that I enjoyed abstract thinking and wanted to pursue my perennial curiosity about the principles underlying human thought and behavior.
During my second year, I additionally rediscovered a dormant passion — language learning. When I was enrolled in my first course with a native speaker of Spanish (in Spanish 232), I began to reach a level of proficiency that felt rewarding. By the end of this course, I recall feeling that my journey with Spanish had only just begun, and to nurture this drive I decided to declare a Spanish minor and apply to study abroad in Madrid during spring of 2019 (through CGIS).
As with many students, my study abroad experience completely changed and enriched my perspective, and solidified my desire to continue using and studying my second language. Upon my return to Michigan, I signed up for the Summer section of Introduction to Spanish Linguistics (Spanish 298), thinking this would be a great opportunity to combine the practice of Spanish with some of the ideas I had encountered via Cognitive Science. I found that engaging with the foundational concepts of Linguistics in my second language helped me gain an even greater appreciation for understanding the underpinnings of how language works. During this course, Professor Lorenzo García-Amaya invited me to join the Speech Production Lab (SPL), and soon thereafter helped me decide to declare a third major in Spanish, at the start of my fourth year.
Though it extended the length of my undergraduate studies by one extra semester, this series of choices ultimately helped me to find my place at Michigan and develop a tangible vision for my future. In Fall 2019, I began to get acquainted with analysing linguistics data in the SPL and enrolled in Spanish Phonetics and Phonology (Spanish 410) with Professor Nicholas Henriksen, co-director of the SPL. This course piqued my interest in the subfield of phonetics and prompted me to get involved in the sociophonetics work happening in the lab. One project in this area for which data analysis had just begun explored the status of post-aspiration in Western Andalusian Spanish.
After a semester of independent study with Professor Henriksen, it became clear that I was interested in staying involved in this project beyond the initial stages. Fittingly, in spring of 2020, with COVID prompting the cancellation of a second study abroad experience I had planned, I enrolled in another of Professor Henriksen’s courses (Spanish 487). This course was centered on Andalusian Spanish, the dialect spoken in the southernmost autonomous community of Spain, and the variety which I had been studying in the lab. During Spanish 487, I was able to interview a university student from the Andalusian province of Cádiz and learned valuable information about the linguistic and social reasons that make the Andalusian dialect important to study. Before the Spring term had ended, Professor Henriksen and I were in talks about the possibility of these experiences culminating in an honors thesis.
I spent the rest of my COVID sequester running Praat scripts, getting my thesis on paper, learning a bit about social science statistics, taking more courses in Spanish Linguistics and Dance, and recording my virtual senior Voice recital. By the end of Fall 2020, my final semester, I defended my thesis at the Phondi discussion group in the Department of Linguistics. I had forged wonderful mentorship relationships and friendships within the lab, come to understand Linguistics research more intimately, and produced my first substantial piece of academic work.
These experiences additionally helped me hone in on what my next steps would be after graduation. During my final semester at Michigan, I also began the process of applying to graduate school and developing the foundations of my own research agenda. I finally accepted the offer to pursue a Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, where I plan to continue working with Spanish and pursue further opportunities to make music.