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Featured Students

Gus Gochnour

I started to learn German in High School but can honestly say it was my least favorite class of the day. I didn’t really develop a love for it until I served an LDS Mission in Northern Germany from 2012-2014. I absolutely loved being immersed in German culture, and German language, and grew fond of everything German. When I returned to the University of Utah, I decided I wanted to continue improving my German and made it my second major. One day, I saw that the Hinckley Institute offered an internship in Berlin, and I decided on a whim that I should apply for it. I was surprised how easy it was to work with them, and with no major setbacks I got the internship.

It has been a blast interning in Germany’s capital for the last 4 months. Learning about the German culture, and language in the class room is one thing, but being able to live and breathe German every day is a special experience. It has been wonderful being able to settle myself into this historical, political, and cultural city and can proudly say it feels like home. My internship is in the office of a Representative of the German Parliament. The first few weeks were surprisingly difficult, as I struggled to learn all of the new political words, and concepts which were foreign to me, but I soon got the hang of it and have loved every second of being here. I can say that it truly is fun speaking German every day, it is fulfilling as I struggle to improve, and it is a feeling of elation when I finally grasp some aspect of the language that I had been working on.

I have made many wonderful connections that will be of use in my further career journey, and have significantly improved my German language skills. Once I graduate from the University of Utah, I want to get my Master’s Degree in Germany, and then work for the State Department

Hillary Hermansen

Congratulations are in order for Hillary Hermansen, a student of Portuguese and English here at the U, for being selected as the 2016 Outstanding Undergraduate Student Researcher for the College of Humanities! 

hillary hermansen portraitHillary's research project focused on narrative mediation and translation of Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star. In her own words, she "analyzed and compared various aspects and complications of narrating and translating between various perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. [She] focused on language's inability to accurately convey the truth, as Clarice called it, which is kind of like a signified. And yet without language, we would never have access to language written in another language or to people we have never met."

After she graduates, she plans to work for a while as a high school English teacher before ultimately pursuing graduate study in the humanities.

Mandarin Chinese helps student pursue a career in global health

Tianna Tu's (second from top right in image) learning abroad experience in Tianjin, China inspired her to pursue a career in global health and earn the Truman Scholarship. Learn more about this recent graduate’s experience at the U, and how her passion for Mandarin Chinese helped shape her future. Read more below.

student in global classroomWhy did you choose your current career path?

Policy and health have always fascinated me. However, it was my experience on the Tianjin, China 2012 Mandarin language and culture learning abroad that inspired me to further pursue global health. In China, I was exposed to the harsh reality of global economic and health disparities. I had never before seen so much poverty amongst so much wealth—which sparked further study into international health systems and global health.

How did you become interested in the Chinese language and culture?

As a half-Asian woman, I am drawn to the history and culture of the Orient. My decision to study Mandarin and Chinese culture was both an inner yearning to learn more about my heritage, as well as a desire to study a culture that is so influential in international politics. China is a place of beauty and history, but its demographics also make China the perfect country to study a diversity of social, political, economic, and health issues.

What was your most meaningful experience at the U?

The most impactful experiences I have had at the U are those that allow me to apply what I learn outside of the classroom. My Tianjin, China learning abroad was instrumental in shaping my path towards a career in global health. My Hinckley Institute of Politics internships have also helped me to learn professional skills that will help me in the workforce, and eventually, public health policy. Every experience has opened my eyes to different cultures, people, perspectives, and policies. They have made me want to be a life-long, active learner.

What were your favorite classes in Languages and Literature? What made them so good?

Without a doubt, taking my second year Mandarin courses at China’s Nankai University was one of my all-time favorite undergraduate experiences. The ability to develop quality language skills through long-term cultural immersion is unmatched. In China, I developed close relationships with my host family, teachers, and fellow students, which helped me to better understand China’s culture and practice my language skills. At the U, Wan Laoshi’s [Prof. Wan's] third year Mandarin classes allowed me to further hone my language skills. She has the unique ability to cater her lessons to each individual student’s language level—a rarity in such advanced courses. Her teaching style and contagious passion for Mandarin made learning the difficult language fun.

How has your understanding of Chinese language and culture helped you in your career? Why is it important to study another language and culture?

As a recent graduate, I am pursuing a career in global health policy. During my time as an undergraduate, I wrote many research and policy papers on international health, with specific focus on Asia. My Honors Political Science thesis also addressed health system development issues in Southeast Asia. While my intended career does not wholly relate to Chinese language and culture, the knowledge I gained during my coursework and the research it has sparked has become the foundation upon which I am building my area of policy interest. I hope that in the future, I can utilize my Mandarin skills to influence health policy in China, and its neighboring countries.

 What are your greatest accomplishments so far?

Completing my BA in Honors Political Science, BA in International Studies, and pre-medicine and Mandarin coursework has been the most challenging and rewarding five years of my life. Immersing myself in the opportunities offered at the University of Utah throughout my undergrad brought me close friendships, life-changing learning abroad experiences and internships, and lasting mentorships—all of which have given me a passion for global health and public policy, and even led me to a Truman Scholarship.

My interest in health policy, and internship and abroad experiences helped me to gain a position while still a college Junior as a Health Policy Analyst at Leavitt Partners, a health policy firm led by former Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt. At Leavitt Partners, I work on domestic health care policy and get to interact with policy experts from across the country. I am also currently implementing my love of global health policy through a Hinckley Internship at the Mehar Baba Charitable Trust NGO in Bassi Pathana, India, where my work focuses on promoting the health and human rights of rural village women.

To what do you attribute your success?

It is the support from invested mentors and peers throughout the University of Utah, particularly within the Department of Languages & Literature, the Honors College, the Hinckley Institute of Politics, and ASUU that have led me to be a successful student. My family and supportive friends have also been instrumental in keeping me motivated and eager to learn.

German Major get summer internship with Ministry of Justice

german student abroadJean Carmichael (third from the right in the image below) is a German major, who participated in the Kiel, Germany Learning Abroad program in 2014. Now she is taking her love for the German language and culture abroad once again for a summer internship with the Ministry of Justice through the Hinckley Institute. Learn more about Jean by reading about her experience below.

Last summer, I participated in the University of Utah’s study abroad program at their sister school Christian Albrecht’s University, in Kiel, Germany. This opportunity allowed me to learn German while interacting with the German culture. Through this opportunity, I came to love the city of Kiel, its beaches, cuisine, and the people. I discovered through Dr. Baumgartner that the Hinckley Institute has an internship for students who have previously studied abroad in Kiel, Germany. Although I did not believe I would get this internship, I applied. I was awarded an Internship with the Ministry of Justice. Even though I did not have the funding to support my internship, I applied for the Learning Abroad Student Fee Scholarship and the Hinckley Scholarship, as well as applied for financial aid through the school. I was able to fund my trip with the help of these programs, and through creating an Indiegogo campaign online, where my friends and family could donate to my internship abroad. The one piece of advice I would give to those wanting to apply for an internship abroad would be to ask your professors for help. They know how to help you apply for these programs and find the funding you need. Go for it!


Spanish Major Wins Fulbright Award for 2015-16

Read more about Jason Chen's thoughts on his Spanish Major, language experiences, and how it contributed to him winning the Fulbright below:

I applied for the Fulbright becauseafter returning from a year long academic exchange (facilitated by our department) in Oviedo, Spain, I realized the benefits of broadening my international and cultural experiences. Through this experience, I gained a greater perspective of Spanish language and culture in the Iberian peninsula, which made me reflect on its greater influence in the Western hemisphere. 

My Spanish major was instrumental in my application for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant position because through learning Spanish abroad, I came to realize the inseparable connection between language and culture. My classes in Spanish Sociolinguistics, Phonetics and Phonology, and History, provided a reaffirmation of my personal experiences of the influence of the Spanish language in the myriad cultures and countries that utilize Spanish as their mother tongue.

As Mexico is the world's largest Spanish speaking country, as well as the Spanish speaking country with the largest economic and cultural ties with the United States, I knew that having an immersive experience in Mexico would provide me a profound cultural insight that will help me in my future career as a physician. 

The cultural experiences I had in my Spanish classes abroad, along with my volunteer position as an interpreter at the Maliheh Free Clinic in Salt Lake City reinforced my conviction that having a firsthand understanding of Mexican languages and cultures is important not only in furthering international understanding, but also in addressing domestic issues.

I could not have attained this award if it were not for my educational experiences through the Department of Languages and Literature. My academic training as a Spanish major has not only helped me gain an understanding of Hispanic languages and cultures, but also given me a greater humanistic context from which to understand the great variety of global cultures, which will be critical in my future career as a physician. Specifically, having an academic background in language has helped me appreciate my position in our diverse world. As a speaker of English, Spanish, and Mandarin, I can communicate with nearly 1.8 billion people, but I realize that these numbers pale in comparison with the 7.2 billion people speaking 6,909 languages worldwide.

Mexico ETA program has expanded to 60 positions for the 2016-2017 cycle.

Last Updated: 12/6/16