I was born and raised in rural Western Massachusetts on a small organic dairy farm. Growing up in such a place has instilled in me a respect and desire to protect the natural environment, but also an urge to get out of the small town and learn about other peoples and cultures of the world.
My reasons for coming to St. Lawrence were varied. Originally, it was not my first choice, but it turned out to be a very good fit for me and an excellent decision. I like the North Country environment because it reminds me of home, but I also like the diversity and endless opportunities that this prestigious university has to offer. The study abroad programs at SLU are excellent and are available to all students.
When I arrived at St. Lawrence, a naïve freshman, I had little idea of what I wanted to pursue as a major. I did know that I was interested in studying Environmental Studies, and that was part of the reason that I chose to attend St. Lawrence, but in a place with so many other opportunities it was impossible to only focus on one subject. I decided to try a new language. After my high school Spanish, I was ready to try something more difficult and so I picked one of the most challenging languages on the list of courses offered, Arabic. Part of my interest in Arabic was also due to the current news highlights taking place in the Middle East, but I also was intrigued by a language so different from English. Language study is key to understanding another culture because the structure and existence of words create meaning that is not paralleled in other languages. Therefore, without knowing a language, you can never truly understand a particular culture. I have been able to continue to study Arabic during my time at SLU, thanks to my professor Gisele El Khoury. I would like to become fluent enough to read and analyze Arabic literature and I hope to someday have the opportunity to travel to an Arabic-speaking country.
Last semester, I was able to study abroad in Costa Rica. This experience was incredibly rewarding in countless ways. By continuing to improve my Spanish abilities, I was able to reach a new level of understanding in another language. After the semester ended, I was able to travel to a northern province of the country with a grant from St. Lawrence in order to do some volunteer work with marine turtles. As part of that experience I served as a translator between the project coordinators, Costa Ricans, and other volunteers, English speakers. It was very gratifying to be able to bridge the language gap, so that everyone could work together on the same project.
In addition to Arabic and Spanish, I started to learn Chinese my sophomore year as the third language for my Multi-Language major. Starting out, it was overwhelming because it was so different from anything that I had ever learned before. I adjusted quickly, however, and one of the classes that I took at the Universidad de Costa Rica was Intensive Chinese II. Although this was the most difficult class that I took while abroad, it was also the most rewarding. I had to work doubly hard to understand Chinese with a Costa Rican flair, but it was extremely interesting to see how people from a culture different from mine viewed a third culture.
Chinese, Spanish, English, and Arabic are all in the top five list of languages with the most native speakers in the world. Being able to speak these languages gives me the ability to communicate with most of the world’s peoples and opens up many new prospects. I have not figured out yet what my plans are for after college, but I am optimistic that with my St. Lawrence education the future holds some exciting opportunities