Alumni Speak Out
Double Major: Spanish and Religion 2005
I never imagined that majoring in Spanish at Birmingham-Southern would open up so many doors for me. My first years of college were spent in the classroom studying the Spanish language (both written and spoken) and learning about the culture and history of Latin America. I didn´t know it at the time, but this proved to be a necessary and excellent preparation for the many adventures that lay ahead. During my last 2 years of college, my classroom moved outside the gates of BSC. I had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in the Dominician Republic, pursued an independent interim project in Bolivia, and began to work with the wonderfully diverse Hispanic community of Birmingham. After graduating in 2005, I worked for a year as a bilingual aide in a local middle school. There I had the opportunity to teach English to immigrant children and served as translator and interpreter. Currently I am in Quito, Ecuador with a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship studying Linguistics, teaching English, and of course practicing and perfecting my Spanish. I do not know where my path will lead me next, but my hope is that wherever I go I might serve as a bridge between languages and cultures. I am so thankful for the Spanish Department at BSC for introducing me to a whole new world and for giving me the skills that I needed to be a part of it
Double Major: Spanish and English 2004
Having graduated in 2004 with a double major in English and Spanish, I can certainly testify to the strength of the humanities at Birmingham-Southern. Initially, I hesitated to pursue both majors in fear of being simply mediocre in both. Not surprisingly, however, I blended the majors to create a personalized course of study that defined my interests and career goals and still continues to do so. Within a mere four years at 'Southern, I interned for an environmental organization as a translator, volunteered with Hispanic clientele at various Birmingham area clinics, traveled to Nogales, Mexico to study border policy and Chicana literature, spent a month in Buenos Aires researching the Argentine Jews and their emigration to Israel, and, finally, acquired teaching experience at the Arlington School as an instructor of both Spanish and English. Evidently, the density of my experience as an undergraduate proved to be the catalyst for graduate school: I am currently pursuing my M.A. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh where I am also employed as a Teaching Assistant of Spanish. As such, I can state with confidence that my formation at BSC has undoubtedly placed me in the upper echelon of graduate programs in the United States, and I give the Spanish department my highest recommendations; perhaps one day I will be able to emulate my former professors at a liberal arts college of the same caliber as Birmingham-Southern.
Double Major: Spanish and English, 2003
I graduated in 2003 with a double major in English and Spanish. Looking back, I loved how small and close-knit the Spanish department was at BSC. After graduation, I continued studying Spanish literature at the University of Georgia and finished my MA in 2005 with a focus in 16th Century Trans-Atlantic discourse and Medieval Spanish literature. While at UGA, I also had the opportunity to teach English at the Centro Peruano-Americano in Trujillo, Peru in the summer of 2004. I graduated with my MA in 2005 and moved to Valencia, Spain where I worked as an English tutor. Now I'm back at the University of Georgia working on a PhD and teaching Spanish 2001 classes for the University. Hopefully one day soon I can come back to BSC's Latin American Studies conference to hear my own students give LAS presentations!
B.A., French, 2004
After changing my college major twice, I finally settled on my passion: French. To this day I am thankful for having made this decision, not only because I thoroughly enjoyed taking classes in the culture, language, and literature of francophone countries, but also because of the opportunities I've been able to enjoy with my degree in hand. While working toward my Bachelor's degree, I was able to study abroad for a year in French-speaking Switzerland, which proved invaluable for my French and also for my later jobs and education. My studies and experiences at BSC undoubtedly gave me the edge that allowed me to be hired for a summer position at the Institut Monte Rosa in Switzerland, whose working language is French. My degree also served me well when working as a French teacher at the Arlington School in Birmingham, and when I applied for graduate school. Currently I study Comparative and Regional Studies and International Development at American University in Washington, D.C., where I now pursue my Master's degree. I've found that my knowledge of French has set me apart. I research using French-language newspapers from Mauritius for the professor whom I assist, and I've recently be hired as an intern with a development NGO that needed a French speaker for their Caribbean program. I'm sure that, in the future, I will continue to benefit from my French studies both in my personal and professional life
French/Dance Major, 2002
I shall always treasure my years as a French and Dance major at Birmingham-Southern College. My French courses certainly prepared me academically for my career as a high-school French teacher. But I also learned much more than academics. The French majors and professors were like a small family. There was no doubt how much our professors cared about us and our success. I don't think that it would have been like this at most other colleges. I believe it is unique to BSC. I am still very close to both of my French professors; these relationships are so very special to me.
Double major in French and English, 2000
I graduated in 2000 with a double major in French and English. Choosing a program of study that emphasized language had a tremendous effect on me; it changed the way that I performed in my other courses, and even the way that I came to think about life in general. Learning another language expands the mind in a variety of ways. Through foreign languages, I became aware of whole worlds of ideas that did not exist for me before I had the words for them. Also, French made me more aware of my own language—of the way that it worked, and of how to use it more effectively. Although I have not yet settled on which career path I will take, I am certain that the French program at BSC, by teaching me to express myself and to communicate better with others, will have prepared me for whatever I choose to do.
Double major: Spanish and Biology, 1999
My name is Stacey Akers, and I am from Homewood, Alabama. After graduation, I plan to attend medical school. When I first started taking Spanish I did not like the thought of taking a foreign language. However, as I continued to learn more about the language and the culture, I grew to love it. When I came to college I had no idea that I would pursue a degree in Spanish, but after taking my first college Spanish class I realized that this was something that I wanted to do. I had never thought that I would major in Spanish, because I was planning to major in biology and go to medical school, and I did not think that there would be any need for me to major in Spanish. I soon realized though that I could do the two things that I loved. In fact, as I finish my college career, Spanish has given me a better understanding of my own language and my own culture. I also hope that I am able to use my Spanish skills as a doctor whether I am serving in a foreign country or even here in Birmingham.
Double major in French and German, 1997
I graduated from BSC in 1997 with a double major in French and German. I then went on to graduate school in French at the University of Tennessee where I got my Master's degree in 2000. While at UT I participated in their teaching assistant exchange program with the French government. I spent a year teaching English in a lycée in La Rochelle. Now I am pursuing a PhD at Vanderbilt University and hope to someday be able to teach at a small liberal arts college.
I think the greatest lesson I took away from my BSC experience was learning how to learn and to develop independent thought. I must admit that although I was nowhere near fluent in French when I left BSC, I made amazing strides towards fluency quite rapidly during my year in La Rochelle because BSC had taught me how to listen for details while appreciating the big picture. In my academic work, finding creative insights into literary texts comes more easily to me, I think, because my undergraduate experience stressed independent thought. My professors never asked for the right answer, just the best answer that I could justify. Being able to find my own ideas and support them is a skill that will serve me well in the academic community or whatever field I may choose later.
Psychology major/Spanish minor, 1998
Being a Charles B. Vail Teaching Fellow for Advanced Conversation in Spanish with Professor Dina DeLuca has been on of the most valuable learning experiences of my college career. It allowed me to get a perspective other than that of a student-as a professor. This was accomplished through teaching classes myself as well as grading and having weekly meetings with Professor DeLuca about various books on teaching foreign languages. I was also able to let the professor know my opinions and thoughts n the techniques we used in the class, as well as my observations and evaluations of the students, through a journal. Teaching for a full week while she was away at a conference, helping with final grading, and wrapping up the experience through discussions with Professor DeLuca about all the things I had learned and to which I had been exposed, all summed up the valuable lessons learned and the great experience I had as a teaching assistant. Besides the experience specific to teaching Spanish, the sense of leadership I gained will also be valuable in whatever future career I choose.
Double major: Spanish and English, 1999
I enjoyed putting my Spanish to work through BSC's mentor program, in which I was paired with an interpreter/editor for a local organization. While I'm not certain of long-term plans, I plan to spend next year studying at la Universidad de Costa Rica in San Jose as a 1999-2000 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. I hope to continue traveling after completing my education and perhaps would like to teach Spanish or English at some point in the future.
Double major: Spanish and English, 1998
Looking back on my experience at Birmingham-Southern, I find that my participation in the Spanish program has not only enriched my academic and personal development, but that it has also expanded my career opportunities. As a student of Spanish, I have seen an improvement in my writing and analytical skills, and I have gained much confidence in my oral communication skills. Most importantly, my study of Spanish has helped me to become a more open-minded and well-rounded person by giving me the opportunity to understand and experience cultures that differ from my own. Currently, I am working at a processing plant in Trussville, AL as a translator and trainer for a growing number of Spanish speaking employees. Since joining the work force, I have been extremely satisfied with the knowledge and skills with which my study of Spanish at 'Southern has provided me, and I feel confident as I plan to enter graduate school in the fall that my studies at Birmingham-Southern have more than adequately prepared me for success in pursuing a Master's degree in Spanish.
Spanish Major, 2000
Deciding to be a Spanish major was not a hard decision for me. Spanish was the one subject I felt passionately about in high school, so it seemed natural to take my learning further. As an international business major also, I see the growing need for individuals with foreign language skills. I know that my ability to speak Spanish will make me a valuable asset to my employer once I enter the workforce. Upon graduation, I'm not quite sure exactly what I'll do. I hope to go on to graduate school for my MBA or graduate studies in Spanish and then pursue a career in which I can use my Spanish skills on a daily basis. I had the opportunity to experience first-hand just how useful my Spanish skills can be in a work environment through an internship at Dollar Mark Solutions in which I used my Spanish daily. Through this internship, I increased my vocabulary, improved my telephone skills in Spanish and learned about Spanish business correspondence as well as general international (particularly Latin American) business practices.
Double major: Spanish and International Business. 1999
My name is Alex Robertson, and I am double majoring in Spanish and International Business. Because the globalization of business becomes more and more a reality each year, I decided to specialize in a foreign language along with business to allow myself the best advantage possible given the changing nature of the market. I believe the knowledge I have gained from studying a foreign language will not only help me compete in the business world of tomorrow but has also helped me to understand and appreciate the Hispanic culture and its people. I have been fortunate enough to experience this culture first-hand through several study abroad opportunities while at Birmingham-Southern. The summer of 1997, I traveled to Guatemala and studied at a language school for four weeks. In January of 1998, I traveled to Mexico City to work as an intern and to study the effects of NAFTA. The summer of 1998 I took two classes for college credit in Madrid, Spain. These experiences have proven to be truly life changing and I would encourage everyone to study abroad. After graduation I hope to incorporate my knowledge of Spanish into a career in International Sales or Marketing and also pursue post-graduate studies in these fields.
Double major: Spanish & International Business, 1996
My name is Heather Wood, and I graduated from BSC in May of 1996 with a degree in Spanish, and completed my International Business degree in August of 1997. I am currently employed as a Spanish teacher at the Altamont School, a private school in Birmingham. When I think about the role that Spanish has played in my personal and professional life, it is truly over whelming. I always enjoyed my Spanish classes in high school but never knew exactly what kind of opportunities I would have with a language degree. I spent my freshman year at the University of Alabama, and by the end of the year, I had decided not to pursue a language degree at all. Instead, I did what so many of us seem to do and began a pre-med. curriculum. By the end of the year, I decided that a large university was not for me, and I transferred to Birmingham-Southern. The smaller classes and personal relationships at BSC made me realize tat I could enjoy language classes again, and I changed my major to Spanish. My first year at BSC as a sophomore, I took advantage of the Interim Study Abroad program and spent one month in Costa Rica. During that time, I learned more about the Hispanic culture and the Spanish language itself that I could ever have imagined. As a senior at BSC, I once again traveled abroad to Guatemala. It was on this trip that I realized I wanted to pursue a career in which I would use my Spanish on a daily basis. It is an incredible asset to have the ability to communicate with someone from another language and culture, and I wanted to use my skills to teach and help others. These skills have taken me to many places that I would have otherwise never had the opportunity to visit. After graduation, I entered The University of Alabama Graduate School's Master's Degree program in Applied Linguistics. While at the University, I worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and took graduate courses in Spanish language, literature, culture and linguistics. Upon completion of my degree, I began applying to schools around Birmingham to teach Spanish. After gaining employment at The Altamont School, many faculty and administration expressed to me that my credentials and background from Birmingham-Southern played a key role in hiring me. There are about ten BSC graduates o the faculty here. Aside from gaining employment relatively easily at a reputable school, my language and international business backgrounds have allowed me to travel to the Dominican Republic as an interpreter and to work as a translator for companies that do business in Latin America. In my experience, I have found that knowing a second language puts you a notch above those who only speak their native language. It is because of my degree in Spanish that I have had the opportunity to travel to many other countries and expose myself to new ideas and cultures. Although the teaching profession is a desirable field for language majors, with my international business background, I have been able to work in a variety of other contexts. I would encourage anyone with an interest in language to consider pursuing a foreign language degree. After all, in the business world, you have to be able to communicate with people in order to succeed, and Spanish is obviously becoming more prevalent here in the United States. Birmingham-Southern has wonderful language and business curricula that are very well respected. Being bilingual has made me a much more culturally and globally aware person, and I would not trade it for anything!
French Major, 1999:
After four years of high school French, I decided that I wanted to become proficient in the language, to hone it as a skill rather than let it slip away. When I entered Birmingham-Southern College in 1995, I chose French as my major, although I had no idea how it would fit into my future career as a health professional. The field of public health had always interested me, and I'm now enrolled in the doctoral program in International Health at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. Here I'm studying ways to improve the nutritional health of malnourished children globally. Many of the neediest children live in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the drought-prone Sahel region where French is the official language of five countries. Because I followed my true interests and majored in French, I am now better prepared to help alleviate one of the world's most pressing health problems.