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Languages at UW-Madison

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Giso B.

Major(s) and Certificate(s) 

Geography Major, Portuguese Major (BA)

Library & Information Studies (MA)

Graduation Year 
2011, 2013
Current city 
Current state/province/country (if outside US) 
What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison? 

In 2013, after finishing my Masters at the UW School of Library and Information Studies, I worked for a year as an intern at CUNA Mutual Group here in Madison. I spent that year working in their corporate archives and records management department—both directly related to my postgraduate studies. In August 2014, after a very brief time back on the job market, I returned to CUNA Mutual to work as an analyst in the Human Resources department.

What motivated you to study this/these languages? 

Language study has always been, and still is, a passion of mine. By the time I was 20 years old, I had studied German, French, Russian, Arabic, and a smattering of other languages. The process of learning and studying these languages was exhilarating. I left post-secondary education behind without finishing a degree, and I worked full time. I regretted having never “mastered” any of the languages that I had started to learn sooner than I decided to return to school.

By the time I enrolled in the Portuguese Intensive Summer Institute in 2009, I had already been teaching myself Portuguese for well over a decade. Originally inspired by the beauty of the Brazilian music and my desire to start a new project, I quickly fell in love with Portuguese (and with Brazil) to a degree that I never had with another language (or culture).

How have these languages enriched your life? 

Through my study of Portuguese I have met friends, travelled and had adventures, learned new ways of seeing the world, and generally had an enormous amount of fun. I’ve also gotten job interviews that I wouldn’t have otherwise and earned academic awards. More than anything else, though, speaking, reading, and living with Portuguese has changed who I am as a person.

What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took? 

The Portuguese department at UW–Madison is exceptional. Not only are the instructors of the very highest quality, but there is never a shortage of cultural, academic, and social activities to take advantage of. I am still a frequent participant at many of these events; it’s one of the reasons that I wanted to stay in Madison after graduating.

How have you maintained or improved your language(s) since graduation?  

My language skills have atrophied some since graduating, but I did travel to Brazil this year and continue to read, listen to music and news radio, and stay in contact with many Portuguese speaking members of the community.

What advice do you have for current language students? 

Incorporate a language into your life and it will pay dividends forever. Do it for the reasons that make sense to your interests, not for employment or earning potential.

What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know? 

cafuné - the act of running your fingers through someone hair or gently massaging their scalp.