Ajok Deng | St. Lawrence University Modern Languages

Ajok Deng

Ajok
Class year: 
2018
Major(s): 
Global Studies and Spanish
Hometown: 
South Sudan
Activities: 
African Student Union, Model Organization of American States, La Sociedad, Weave News, English Conversation Partner Program

Throughout the development of my undergraduate studies I have had the privilege to engage in academically rigorous courses within the Spanish and Caribbean/Latin American Studies departments. Since my freshman year I have grained proficiency which gave me the courage to study abroad twice, first in Valparaíso, Chile then Salamanca/Madrid, Spain.

Studying abroad is the greatest method to develop a fluid exchange of ideas through personal experience, study, and research which ultimately leads to greater self-discovery. I took advantage of the opportunity to share my ideas and learn through total immersion in Chile. Although my initial attraction to the program was the course availability, I soon realized that the classes not only increased my skills and knowledge of the Spanish language but also of the Latin American culture. I did experience culture shock at first but quickly over-came the differences from my Southern Sudanese upbringing. Till this moment I was limited to the boundaries of my traditions and customs and therefore I was eager to see the world from a new set of lenses.

Upon my return to campus I decided that I wanted more. I was determined to become a global citizen which is why I applied for the Spain Program. After a long thorough selection process, I was one of the four students nominated for the Spring. This experience created a unique opportunity to hone in on the skills I started developing at the 100 level and I fell in love with Spanish art and food.

While in Spain I was also granted an internship with the Weave news, a grassroots media making/citizen journalism website. I gathered and shared information about underreported contemporary issues taking place in Spain. My research was later organized into blogs, which conceptualized the collective memory, gender relations, and the controversial transition to democracy with the intentions of bringing these conversations into the public sphere. A big component of my work was documenting street art and social movements as a creative method that ordinary citizens use to interpret the social spaces around them.

This past summer I interned for New Haven León Sister City Project. Located in León, Nicaragua, this is a progressive grassroots organization concerned with educating and empowering young girls and women. My responsibilities included influencing policies of domestic violence and woman development to create safer environments for the women to live in. I implemented workshops which brought women together to challenge gender-based violence in their communities and surrounding self-esteem.

My very first internship abroad was in Lima Peru during the winter break of my sophomore year. I worked with La Casa de Panchita providing homework assistance and tutored subjects such as English and computer skills to encourage the women and children to further their education, in addition to sensitizing others to the plight of domestic workers through community workshops.

My decision to partake in each of these projects is fabricated by love for adventure, travel and languages. Although I speak four languages now, I wish to add Arabic to the list sometime in the near future. Post-graduation I plan to pursue a career in the diplomatic realm or in some level of international intervention and St. Lawrence University has been extremely instrumental in my preparation.