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Language Student Interview Spotlight: Renee Congdon ’20

By ninapalisano on February 18, 2019
Renee (right) with a group of international friends in Madrid, Spain

What languages do you speak/study?

I speak and study Spanish, and I speak Portuguese at an intermediate level.

Did you study languages before coming to Colgate?

Yes. Growing up I learned American Sign Language to communicate with my cousin, who is deaf. In high school I began to take Spanish classes, and also studied Swahili for about 6 months.

How has language study been different for you at Colgate than it was in high school?

Language study at Colgate, for me, has been entirely literature-based. In high school I only ever took language/grammar courses, but since my first semester at Colgate I have been taking courses in Latin American and Spanish literature. This makes language study much more engaging and dynamic for me personally. 

What has been your favorite language class and/or professor on campus?

This is such a tough question. ROLA has such great professors. I think there’s a three-way tie here between Marta Pérez Carbonell, Ricardo Monsalve, and Fernando Plata. In particular, I really enjoyed Marta’s class on contemporary Spanish novels and her short stories class, as well as Ricardo’s seminar on Borges.   

What else do you study besides languages?

I’m currently working on minors in Linguistics and English. 

Do you see crossover between your fields of study?

Definitely. Linguistics is fascinating, and very relevant to Spanish studies, especially when looking at older texts in which you can actually see examples of the way the language has evolved. English, in also being a literature major, definitely crosses over and provides me with more points of reference for my Spanish literature studies. 

Have you received any scholarships or fellowships for language study?

Last summer I received a Lampert Language Fellowship to study Portuguese. I was able to take private lessons all throughout the summer, and then put the language skills I’d learned to the test in December, when I visited mainland Portugal and the Azores Islands. 

Where have you been able to study abroad?

I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad in Madrid, Spain during the Fall 2018 semester. The Madrid trip is a Colgate program run through the Spanish department in collaborating with CEU San Pablo, a private university in Madrid. Throughout the semester, we also travelled around Spain, visiting Toledo, Granada, Santiago de Compostela and lots of other towns.

What was your study abroad experience like? How did it contribute to your education at Colgate?

My study abroad experience was so wonderful. Speaking Spanish 24/7 was so helpful for my fluency and confidence, and being able to live in and explore Madrid was especially exciting after two years in Hamilton. My all time favorite part of my study abroad experience was, without a doubt, the people I met in Madrid. I got very close with a group of students from CEU, including some Spanish students as well as some international students from Peru and Colombia. We would often go out to eat together or spend hours hanging out at one of our apartments, chatting in Spanish and occasionally singing, dancing, and playing guitar, since lots of them happen to be musically inclined. Spending so much time with them was incredibly helpful for improving my accent and my casual conversational abilities. 

What recommendations would you give to someone who wanted to learn the language you study?

DO IT! Spanish is arguably one of the most useful (not to mention beautiful) languages you can learn, especially as someone living in North America. 

Why do you think studying languages is important?

It opens up an entire new population of the world to you. It also helps to expand your worldview in a very concrete, psychological way: if you subscribe to the theory of linguistic relativity, you understand that the language you speak limits, channels, and shapes your reality. When you learn a new language, you often change your interpretation of reality. Additionally, if you enjoy traveling, I think it’s crucial to speak another language besides English to enrich your experience. 

What impact do you see language study having on the rest of your life?

It will hopefully dictate and guide my entire career path! My current plan is to apply for doctoral programs in Spanish literature, and to hopefully eventually become a university professor. Additionally, I now have many close friends that I would’t have gotten to know if I didn’t speak Spanish. I see those friendships continuing – and new ones being created throughout the rest of my life – as a result of studying Spanish.


The Keck Center Presents: Spring 2019 International Short Film Series (Feb 12: “Love”)

By ninapalisano on February 11, 2019

The Keck Center is thrilled to host a themed short film series this semester! We’re kicking things off on Tuesday, February 12 at 6PM with Valentine-themed cinema and candy from around the world.

彼女と彼女の猫“She and Her Cat” (Japanese, 1999) 4:44 runtime 
A year in the life of a cat and his human.

Vale “Okay” (Spanish and English, 2015) 12:04 runtime
Celebrating life and saying “yes” to invitations – despite a language barrier.

Una notte ancora “One More Night” (Italian, 2012) 10:55 runtime
Two men navigate the painful and poetic end of their love affair.

“Samuel-613” (Yiddish and English, 2015) 15:45 runtime 
A young Hasidic man in Britain faces the modern temptation of online dating.

 RHINOS “Love Knows No Border” (German and English, 2012) 14:00 runtime
A chance meeting on a park bench leads to (mis)understanding and connection.


Language Student Interview Spotlight: Lindsey Johnson ’20

By ninapalisano on February 4, 2019
Lindsey in Moscow

Oneida Shushe spoke with Colgate junior Lindsey Johnson.

What languages do you speak/study?

I’m studying the Russian language, and I had absolutely no prior experience with the language before coming to Colgate. 

Did you study any other languages before coming to Colgate?

In middle and high school I took Spanish language classes. 

How has language study been different for you at Colgate than it was in high school?

I think the biggest difference between high school and college language study has just been the language itself. Russian is much more difficult to learn – and easier to forget! But classes meet nearly every day of the week, which helps with retention while taking the class. 

What has been your favorite language class or professor on campus?

I think my favorite language class I took on campus was second semester first year Russian with Professor Alice Nakhimovsky, because it was a small class and a fun learning environment.

What else do you study besides languages? Do you see any crossover between your separate fields of study?

My other major is Peace and Conflict Studies. I have focused on 20th century Russia/Soviet Union, so there has actually been quite a bit of crossover between my two majors.

Have you received any scholarships or fellowships for language study? If so, where have you been able to study abroad?

Last year I received a Lampert Language Fellowship, which allowed me to take the the Summer 2017 Russian Language Practicum at Columbia University. This was in an intensive course that helped me to prepare for my fall semester in Moscow on a Middlebury College program. 

What was your study abroad experience like? How did it contribute to your education at Colgate?

My study abroad was difficult but rewarding, as I had to sign a Language Pledge and all of my classes were in Russian. I also lived with a Russian woman who spoke little to no English. 

Why do you think studying languages is important?

 I think studying language has always been very important, but especially now since we live in such a global world. Moreover, because of the U.S.’s current relationship with Russia, learning Russian can be extremely valuable in many ways – if only to allow us to empathize with the Russian people.

What impact do you see language study having for the rest of your life? Do you have any future plans that involve the language you study?

I am not absolutely sure what I want to do yet, but I hope to do something involving peacebuilding or diplomacy in the future. 


Language Student Interview Spotlight: Justine Hu ’21

By ninapalisano on January 29, 2019
Justine in Morocco

Student Assistant Oneida Shushe chatted with Justine Hu about family, fluency, and international relations.

What languages do you speak/study?

I study Arabic here at Colgate. I have also studied Chinese, French, and a tiny bit of Spanish and Italian.

Did you study languages before coming to Colgate?

I grew up bilingual; both my parents are from China. I subsequently took 12 years of Chinese Language schooling as a child and an additional 5 years of French in high school. I attempted to teach myself basic Spanish as a personal project the summer before my senior year, and took one year of basic Arabic before coming to Colgate.

How has language study been different for you at Colgate than it was in high school?

Language study at Colgate is super intensive and fast-paced; I have learned so much more Arabic in three semesters than I ever expected.

Do you have a favorite language class or professor on campus?

The whole Arabic department on campus is amazing.

What else do you study besides languages?

I am an International Relations major with a double minor in Economics and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.

Do you see any crossover between the two fields?

There is a great deal of crossover in all these areas; languages are critical to understanding global affairs and engagement as well as global economics. 

Have you been able to study abroad? If yes, what was the experience like? How did it contribute to your education at Colgate?

I went on an extended study trip to Morocco the summer after my first year, and I will also be participating in the Geneva study group in the Spring of 2020. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Morocco. It allowed me to immerse myself in the Arabic language, and it positively affected my decision to add a MIST minor. I am looking forward to studying in Geneva and picking back up with my high school study of French. I am planning to study both Arabic and French while abroad, as both languages contribute greatly to my future goals as an IR major.

What recommendations would you give to someone who wanted to learn the language you study?

Do it! Arabic can require a ton of work, but it is all worth it with the amount that you get out of learning the language. Learning a completely new alphabet sounds daunting, but once you start studying Arabic, you’ll get hooked.

Why do you think studying languages is important?

Studying languages is critical for communication and understanding. As a child, I initially hated having to study another language because it felt unfair that I had an additional day of school and extra homework. I did not study Mandarin as well as I should have; and as a result, I sometimes have difficulty communicating with my own relatives. While language is sometimes seen as a “window” to a new world, it can unfortunately be a barrier as well. Realizing the limitations in my knowledge of languages also allowed me to realize its possibilities; this past summer I taught English classes at a language school in China, an opportunity that allowed me to better see the huge impact language can have. I now recognize and fully appreciate its power in connecting people. 

What impact do you see language study having for the rest of your life?

I plan to study languages for the rest of my life. I eventually hope to become fluent in at least 5 or 6, but my main goal right now outside of fluency in Arabic is to improve my Mandarin. 

Do you have any future plans that involve the language you study?

Although I don’t have set plans for a future career, I hope to be able to utilize Arabic in whatever field I enter.


Language Student Interview Spotlight: Elizabeth Gonzales ’19

By ninapalisano on October 19, 2018

Monica Dimas ’19 spoke with Elizabeth Gonzales about her experience of studying Mandarin Chinese at Colgate.

Did you study languages before coming to Colgate?

No, I did not. My high school only offered Spanish, and I am a native speaker of Spanish. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to learn another language before I came to Colgate.

What language did you start learning here?

Mandarin Chinese.

What has been your favorite language class on campus?

I would say John Crespi’s “Living in Beijing” Extended Study class, because it made me more interested in learning Chinese. After taking the Extended Study and going to Beijing with Prof. Crespi, I went on his Colgate Chinese Study group, and now he is my advisor. I feel like he has been instrumental in learning the language. In the beginning I struggled a lot, but he was always there to help.

What else do you study besides languages?

My major is International Relations (I.R.).

Do you see a cross-over between the two fields?

Language study is a requirement for I.R., and most of the time people take a western language such as Spanish. You have to take a 200 and a 300 level course to complete that part of the major. I think studying Chinese has worked well for my major because I like learning about other languages and cultures.

Have you received any scholarships and/or fellowships for language study?

Yes, a few! Scholarships have been so useful for my language study. I received a Gilman Scholarship, which helped me go to China to study Mandarin, and a Lampert Summer Language Scholarship. I also received the Freeman Asia Scholarship. but I was not able to accept it.

What was your study abroad experience like and how did it contribute to your education at Colgate?

I studied abroad in China, and it was a very life-changing experience. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do before I started at Colgate. After studying abroad, I know what I want to do after I graduate. I’m more confident in myself and just a more independent individual.

Do you have any future plans that involve the language you study?

Yes! As a senior I have been applying to a lot of national fellowships and scholarships – for example, Fulbright, Boren, and Princeton Asia. I want to go back to China to keep improving on my Mandarin, and my main goal is to become fluent in the language. The Chinese culture is also something I really feel connected to and I feel like language fluency will help me make a home and career in China. After completing a national fellowship in China, I hope to attend grad school and then pursue a career in East Asia diplomacy and politics. Hopefully that will one day lead to working for the foreign services or the UN.

Lastly, what recommendations would you give someone who wanted to learn the language you study?

I would just say to not give up! Chinese is a difficult language to learn, and it can often be frustrating. Utilize all the resources Colgate has for language study. I think going abroad and immersing yourself in the language and culture is one of the most important thing when learning a language. After returning from China I felt like I was almost instantly better at my classes and more confident. If you surround yourself with people who are constantly speaking the language you’re trying to learn, then you’ll improve rapidly.