Brendan Reilly | St. Lawrence University Modern Languages

Brendan Reilly

Brendan Reilly

Class year: 
Bethlehem, PA
SLU Table Tennis Club

My St. Lawrence story has been one of linguistics and ping pong. More on this later, but my interest in languages and my love for the popular basement game came together in a magical way at SLU.

My decision to go to college six hours away in the far reaches of upstate New York was not a simple one at first. But after visiting, it was hard to pass up such a gorgeous place to live and study—the North Country beauty lured me to St. Lawrence with ease. Academically speaking, I didn’t have a whole lot in terms of concrete plans. There was really only one thing that I knew: I love learning languages.

I had been studying the German language since 7th grade in my hometown of Bethlehem, PA. The proximity to Amish Pennsylvania made it quite common to see German courses in the nearby public schools, and I had fallen in love with the language and began to dream of someday having a career abroad. I knew very little of what exactly I wanted to do, so I spent a ton of time learning German, but little time learning the “important things.”

In my first semester at St. Lawrence, I took a Chinese 101 course. I felt a little silly for starting over with a brand new language, but I immediately fell in love all over again like I had with German. This time, I was learning a language tied to a culture vastly different than my own. This has shown me my new favorite part of learning languages: it leads to international friendships.

My most important connection yet came to me during a SLU Table Tennis Club session. A visiting professor from China came to the session with her family, and while playing a few rounds with her mother, I began to keep score in Chinese. Like it usually does, hearing an American student speak Chinese came as a pleasant surprise, and she was delighted to be able to speak with me in her native tongue. This small linguistic bond grew into a close connection with the family, and I now plan to visit them in China in the coming summer to work as an English teaching intern. I now think often about the irony of St. Lawrence’s remote location, for my school has provided me with connections quite literally around the globe.