Class of 2017

On May 6th, 2017 I graduated from Boise State University after five years. I’m the kind of person who is always looking to the future, and I often get so caught up in worrying about what I’ll make of my degree and what comes next that I forget to celebrate the accomplishment itself so let me take a moment to pause and say it’s a big deal. It was a lot of work. I learned stuff. I stuck with it. To all other graduates out there, don’t forget that you worked hard and deserve a little celebration!

Participating in the graduation ceremony was a great way to bring the experience to a close, and I’m glad I got to enjoy the ceremony with my friends and peers by my side. As I’m writing this, a little over two weeks post graduation, I can tell you that it feels strange, and a little empty. Being a student has been a large part of my identity for most of my life, and if “student” is no longer a dominant part of my identity, what takes that place? Adult? Teacher? For now, nothing seems to fit quite right and I’m still adjusting to this new phase in my life. I’ve come to the wonderful and terrifying realization that I can do whatever I want. I’m capable, educated, and relatively untethered, and all I have to do is decide which direction I want to go.

I’ve never felt so free, and I’m working hard to take full advantage of this freedom. Right now taking advantage of that means ticking off a crazy summer bucket list in my home state and frantically filling out paperwork to secure the next chapter of my life: teaching English in Austria.

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File_003All of the linguistics students in the class of 2017.

I get a lot of questions about my degree and college experience, so I thought it’d be a good idea to answer some of those questions here and explain how all the pieces have come together for me. I hope this helps paint a clearer picture of how I came to be where I am.

What did you study?

I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English with a Linguistics emphasis and a minor in German, cum laude. Basically, I studied linguistics, which is the study of languages and how they work. My focus has been on understanding how languages are acquired and processed in the brain, and using that understanding to inform my teaching practices.

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So how many languages do you speak?

Not all linguists speak other languages, but I happen to have taken two years of Latin, two years of American Sign Language, four years of German (including one year studying abroad in Germany), one semester of Spanish, one semester of Arabic (taken in German while I was abroad), and I have completed the Rosetta Stone’s Swahili program. I am an advanced speaker of German, but I hope to become fully fluent. I also want to develop fluency in Arabic, Swahili, and Spanish and use those languages in the future as a teacher or services coordinator for refugees and immigrants.

File_001 My dad and I. I wore a study abroad sash for Germany, and a lei that my dad’s girlfriend had made for me of red and white flowers like the Austrian flag.

What do you want to do with your degree?

As of right now, I’m interesting in either teaching in a TESOL  (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) context or some kind of job working with refugees and coordinating services or something along those lines. If you would like more details on my teaching, I have a dedicated blog to explain the teaching program I will be participating in this fall titled “What Are You Doing After College?”, but I want to touch on how I became interested in teaching. I started college intending to become an American Sign Language interpreter, but soon worried about choosing a profession that would keep me in the United States. I switched to Linguistics, and then in 2013 I took a course titled “First and Second Language Acquisition”. A requirement of the course was to do twenty hours of service learning at one of two programs for immigrants and refugees to learn English. I started volunteering at Project SHINE- Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders, a class for refugees aged sixty and older to learn English and American history for the citizenship test. It was stressful and difficult and I was not prepared, but I loved it and have returned to volunteer teach there at every opportunity.

Since then I have served over two hundred and twenty hours at various programs with refugees and immigrants both in Boise where I taught English, and in Germany where I taught some German. I still volunteer at SHINE twice a week and will continue to do so until I leave for Austria. I never imagined myself as a teacher before college, so I consider myself lucky to have taken that course and discovered my passion for it. I’m excited to keep exploring teaching as a career option.

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I hope that answers some questions! I want to thank my friends and family for all of the support over the years as I made my way through school. It wasn’t always easy, but I am happy that I made it all the way to graduation day, and I’m excited to start some new adventures and see what comes next.

Sandra.

Photos taken by Grad Images and family members. Boise, ID May 2017