Hannah Ma (right) and classmate Brenna Potter, at a carousel in Grenoble, France. Photo courtesy of Hannah Ma.

Hannah Ma, pursuing a dual degree in LSA and the Ross School of Business, with a major in Romance Languages and Literatures (RLL) and a concentration in Accounting, spent Spring 2017 in Santiago de Compostela, Spain and Summer 2017 in Grenoble, France studying abroad through programs offered by U-M’s Center for Global and Intercultural Study.

Ma said she found studying abroad to be beneficial to her current Spanish and French studies and to her future career in public accounting:  she is interested in working with multinational corporations in auditing.  

“I’m glad I went; my Spanish and French improved a lot.  Practice does really help you improve,” she noted.  “You can study the language and culture when you’re in other places, but you can’t experience it if you’re not there.”

“My goal is to be able to use my language and my cultural knowledge to make business and communication easier and more enjoyable,” she remarked, regarding her post-graduation career plans.

“Sometimes when you’re communicating with someone whose first language is not the same as yours, there can be misunderstandings,” said Ma.  “Having some cultural understanding can help in understanding where we both might be struggling to communicate.”

Ma said living with a host family for six weeks in each location played a significant role in her experience studying abroad.  

“For both programs, a highlight was meeting new people and spending time with them,” Ma said.  “One of the best experiences was living with my host parents.  I got to know more about the cultures.  It was interesting to compare those experiences with my life here.”

In Spain, Ma completed a course on Spanish pragmatics, taught by RLL Language Program Director Stephanie Goetz.  Ma said she learned a lot from assignments, interacting with people in the community, and paying close attention to the language used in everyday communication.  She said it was particularly helpful  to return to class with questions and observations.

Ma also completed a course on the ancient pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago, taught by a faculty member from a local university.  She and her classmates hiked the Camino for three days, walking approximately 50 kilometers.

“We got to learn the history of the city [Santiago de Compostela] and why it is important to a lot of people,” said Ma.

Through the Grenoble program, in France, Ma studied a variety of subjects, including a course on World War II-era France, taught by RLL French Coordinator Kathy Meyer.  She also studied French grammar, literature, and civilization.

“I really liked Kathy’s course,” Ma said.  “I had never learned that much about the French Resistance [prior to this course].  We also visited a museum about the French Resistance.”  

While in France, Ma had several opportunities to travel with her classmates.

“On Bastille Day, some of us went to Marseilles together,” she said.  “And as a group, we went to Léon.”

Ma’s interest in learning Romance languages began in high school, where she studied Spanish.

“My high school Spanish teacher had a really big impact on me,” Ma said. “She really made me want to continue learning it.  I came in [to U-M] knowing I wanted to pursue Spanish.”

When Ma declared the RLL major, she chose Spanish and French as her languages of study.  She said she is considering learning Italian in the future as well.

“I really enjoy learning languages,” she noted.

At U-M, some of her favorite RLL courses included French language courses with Prof. Helen Van Doren, French 270: France’s Orient with Prof. Jarrod Hayes, and Spanish 475: Banditry and the Construction of the Nation in Latin America with Prof. Javier Sanjinés.