Since graduation, I have been traveling a lot. In the past year, I have been to Spain, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. In addition, I got certified in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in Florence, Italy and traveled around the northern part of the country on the weekends. After completing my TEFL class, I received a job offer in Saudi Arabia, which I accepted, and have been teaching in Riyadh ever since. I will continue to travel a lot this year and will likely end up in Qatar or the Emirates next year.
With a Spanish background in high school, I thought Portuguese would be a similar language to learn in college. I also really like the way Brazilian Portuguese sounds, so I thought it would be a fun one to learn. In regards to Turkish, I was stuck between taking Indonesian, Finnish, and Turkish during my sophomore year. On the first day of class, I actually thought I was enrolled in Indonesian-believing that was the final decision I had made-and looked at my class schedule only to find out that I was in fact about to attend Turkish class. I really wanted to go to Turkey, so I continued taking the class.
First of all, the languages that I studied at UW-Madison have enriched my travel experiences over the past few years. I believe the best thing about traveling is attempting to live like members of the respective culture, and speaking the language is the best way to do this. Personally, language study at a university level is what really got me into the hobby of my life because of the classes I enrolled in at UW-Madison. Finally, studying a language academically, like I did, helped me understand how language in general works and why English can be so quirky sometimes. As an English teacher, I am able to relate to what my students may be confused about while they are learning.
Personally, I really enjoyed the UW-Madison language classes. The teachers are great and do a good job incorporating speaking and listening exercises into the curriculum. I had a Chinese professor, Wang Laoshi, who I really liked. She always wore a colorful traditional Chinese dress, if I remember correctly, and had a strange pointer with a small hand at the end of it. I had a Turkish teacher from Turkmenistan who was great as well. He was always energetic for my Turkish class at 8:50 AM and had a great teaching style. In general, I think language classes are always going to get more interesting because you're going to have to be involved. You will also get to learn about strange and interesting things about other cultures.
The university has excellent language tables, especially the Portuguese and Chinese language tables. Also, there are many international students on or near campus. Become friends with them and practice!
The only regret that I had in college-and many people will tell you this-is that I never studied abroad. Do it!