Graduates who have studied foreign languages and literatures at Lafayette are truly prepared to embrace the world as global citizens and navigate cultural differences with curiosity and ease. It’s not uncommon to find them in law school or graduate school, furthering their academic careers at places such as George Washington University, University of Miami, Boston University, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and University of Pittsburgh. Many language students graduate from Lafayette and receive Fulbright scholarships to teach and study abroad.
In fact, a language degree very much connects to a wide array of degree programs and professions, resulting in jobs in the arts, public service, health professions, teaching, publishing and business. Companies such as Harcourt, Inc., the Foundation Center, IBM, Credit Suisse, and Artists Rights Society (among many others) have all hired graduates, who find that their language skills and cultural fluency set them apart from their competition.
Life changed pretty quickly after graduation for Raquel Aledo ’10, a double major in French and international affairs. She applied for admission to the master’s program of advanced international studies at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. Two weeks later, she was accepted, and started packing her bags.
Armed with skills in English, Portuguese (her mother tongue), French, German and Spanish, Aledo began her journey in Vienna with a remarkable skill set. “In order to qualify for an international career, candidates are expected to speak several languages, be skillful in human interactions, know how to observe etiquette abroad, and be able to express themselves appropriately through written and oral communication. And that is exactly what I have learned at Lafayette,” she says.
Studying with the professors at Lafayette wasn’t just about languages—it was about culture, politics, philosophy, history, and cuisine, she says. Her education at Lafayette showed her how big the world is, and how many interesting opportunities are available for people like her. While she’s studying in Vienna, she’s also working as an intern at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. “I wanted to work for international organizations—and ultimately for the UN—since my first day at Lafayette College . . . I’m happy I can work for a good cause.”
Richard Durham ’11 is so well-prepared for life after graduation that he had a job offer long before he even donned a cap and gown. He’ll be working for a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Honduras for six months, communicating with rural farmers and other NGO professionals and everyone in between. “I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t have the linguistic confidence and cultural context that the Spanish major has allowed me to acquire,” he says.
When Durham first arrived on campus, he says he was interested in Spanish before he became interested in economics. He found a way to combine the two as part of a team of faculty and other students who comprise Lafayette’s Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project (EEGLP) in Honduras, helping a village improve its future through sustainable coffee farming.
With the experience of college fresh in his mind, Durham is able to offer lots of advice. He stresses the importance of studying abroad for a language major. “Make sure you are committed to studying the language and open to different ways of learning it. I learned more in my five months in Buenos Aires than in all four years of high school Spanish. You’ll never get over the language barrier plateau until you immerse yourself.”
Angela Guarino ’04 was one of those students who truly immersed herself in everything during her time at Lafayette: she was a member of Sigma Delti Pi, an EXCEL Scholar who co-authored two papers as an undergraduate with Professor Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci, and class valedictorian. A double major in Spanish and Government & Law, Guarino earned a master’s degree in Spanish in 2007 from Middlebury College (known for its strong language and immersion programs) and graduated from Boston College Law School in 2010.
“I took away many things from my work with Professor Geoffrion-Vinci as a student, EXCEL Scholar, and eventual honors thesis advisee that prepared me for my career path. For instance, I never got the feeling that writing and research assignments under Michelle were ever simply about the subjects at hand. They pushed me to consider various perspectives, develop my own arguments and support for them, and have the confidence to creatively express my thoughts. All are lessons central to legal practice.”
Outside of the classroom environment, studying abroad, Guarino says she learned a lot about herself and has been transformed in unexpected but important ways by her experience studying abroad in Madrid as an undergraduate. “Having to struggle to communicate at times gave me a deeper appreciation for what it truly means to understand others and be understood by them. I hope this knowledge enables me to be a better listener and communicator when it comes to interacting with clients and putting them at ease,” she says.
Jokes about German engineering aside, Briana Niblick ’06 always knew she would study both German and engineering—she chose Lafayette based on the strength of both programs.
What happened beyond that, once she graduated, she could not have predicted. Her love of language and engineering aspirations continued to dovetail. She taught German for a year at the Immanuel German School, in Huntington Valley, Pennsylvania, which she attended when she was younger. She received a one-year Fulbright Scholarship to study in Vienna, Austria at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences. She then received a National Science Foundation IGERT Fellowship to fully fund her Ph.D. work in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
That fellowship happens to also include a six-month research rotation at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Niblick is picking up Portuguese well thanks to her German studies, tracking her travels within South America, and it all feels very natural to her. “I have never compartmentalized disciplines into pre-constructed boxes and my integration of German and engineering has been no exception.” She credits the German professors who “pushed me to refine my analytical writing skills in literature and cultural studies. I still use these analytical studies every time I write a scientific literature review, or want to approach an engineering problem from a different point of view,” she says.
Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci, Department Head
426 Pardee Hall
Markus Dubischar, Assistant Head
423 Pardee Hall
Joli Mellett, Department Secretary
410 Pardee Hall
Foreign Languages and Literatures
413 Pardee Hall
Easton, PA 18042
(610) 330-5656 (fax)