"Learning Spanish has helped me be more confident in myself as a person. Spending a year abroad in Peru during my time in UW taught me that I don't need to be shy about speaking in front of a group of people in a foreign language—that's how you learn!"
Major(s) and Certificate(s): Political Science, Spanish
Graduation Year: 2011
Current city: San Francisco, CA
What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?
Prior to graduating, I received a job offer with Google in San Francisco to work with small and medium-sized businesses to promote their businesses on Google’s advertising platform. When I joined my team, I was the only fluent Spanish-speaker across two offices, so I worked with our senior management to establish a “press 2 for Spanish” option for Google’s North American advertisers. Since then, I’ve changed roles and am now a project manager for Google Fiber (our foray into the internet and home TV space.)
What motivated you to study this/these languages?
I’ve always had an affinity for languages since I grew up at home speaking Arabic with my parents. In 6th grade, they asked us to choose between Spanish and French—I went with Spanish since it seemed more practical in the US—and I immediately fell in love. The grammatical structure, the different accents, the amazing novels, etc. made me fall in love with the language and culture.
How have these languages enriched your life?
Learning Spanish has helped me be more confident in myself as a person. Spending a year abroad in Peru during my time in UW taught me that I don’t need to be shy about speaking in front of a group of people in a foreign language—that’s how you learn! When I came back to the US, I noticed I was much more confident in my English-speaking interactions as well.
What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?
I remember a class I took over the summer of 2009 where I learned nothing but vocabulary, from car parts to medical terminology to the names of various animals. I remember thinking, “I will never use this in my life.” Boy, was I wrong! In my study abroad time, to a variety of interactions I had on the phone with a client at work, to normal day-to-day conversations, learning the vocabulary that summer has been greatly useful. My Spanish classes seemed more engaging than my non-language courses —I was always excited to go and could always count on my professors being excited as well.
How have you maintained or improved your language(s) since graduation?
I use it at work and chat with people socially at bars, restaurants, etc.
What advice do you have for current language students?
If you can study abroad for a year—DO IT. It’s really not that long of a time and you’ll never have another chance to do it for that long. Don’t worry about your romantic relationships or missing a Badger game—they’ll still be there when you get back! Study abroad is really a once in a lifetime opportunity. Also, if you do study abroad, try your best to only speak in the language of that country—don’t just surround yourself with Americans, step out of your comfort zone and embrace the local language. That’s the only way you’ll learn!
What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know?