"I feel that learning the language of the community you are aiming to support demonstrates commitment and passion, and I felt it truly made a difference in establishing relationships."
Major(s) and Certificate(s): Community and Nonprofit Leadership, Certificates in African Studies, Global Health Certificate
Graduation Year: 2015
Current Location: Madison, WI
What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?
I am currently working at Branch2 to assist with operations and project coordination. Branch2 creates software to support healthy minds. I am also volunteering with the Brighter Tanzania Foundation, a non-profit founded in the Madison area that aims to support a school in Arusha, Tanzania.
What motivated you to study this/these languages?
When I started at the University of Wisconsin, I wanted to learn a language spoken in a developing part of the world because of my interest in international aid. I randomly chose to take Swahili my first semester and kept with it until graduation. I still hope to go back to graduate school and eventually follow my passion for sustainable development in East Africa.
How have these languages enriched your life?
Swahili inspired me to study abroad in Kenya for five months which continues to be one of the most amazing and influential experiences I’ve had to date. Not only was living in Kenya life-changing but understanding Swahili and having the ability to speak it with community members was so fun and rewarding. It always takes them by surprise when they hear a Mzungu (white person) start speaking Swahili, but you can see it gives them so much happiness to see someone making the effort to speak their language.
What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?
My Swahili courses at the University of Wisconsin were much smaller than all of my other classes. I loved that they allowed me to get to know the instructors and my classmates.
How valuable were your out-of-classroom experiences?
When studying abroad in Kenya, I interned with a family planning nonprofit and assisted them with fieldwork. When I was out in the field in marginalized areas of Mombasa, I was able to communicate with community members who didn’t speak English. I feel that learning the language of the community you are aiming to support demonstrates commitment and passion, and I felt it truly made a difference in establishing relationships.
How have you maintained or improved your language(s) since graduation?
I’m currently in search of someone who knows Swahili so we can converse a couple of times a month.
What advice do you have for current language students?
If you can, study abroad and immerse yourself in the culture of the language you are speaking! It can be challenging, but it so rewarding. I would do it over again in a heartbeat!
What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know?
Haraka haraka haina baraka (Swahili proverb which means “Hurry, hurry has no blessings”)