Nichole S.

" Look for funding options everywhere. I was able to fund my study abroad to Varanasi, India because I applied for funding through FLAS- which is something I highly recommend applying for if you are studying a less commonly taught language. Boren, Flagship programs, and CLS are fantastic opportunities to look into."

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Major(s) and Certificate(s): International Business, Marketing, Certificate in South Asian Studies, Certificate in Professional Chinese Communication

What language(s) did you study at UW-Madison? Mandarin Chinese, Hindi & Bangla

Graduation Year: 2017

Current Location: Varanasi, India

What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?

Thirteen days after I graduated, I found myself back in India as the Resident Adviser for CET who partners with UW-Madison to run the UW in India study abroad programs. Ever since, I’ve been wearing multiple hats with not only helping coordinate and run the UW in India program, but also many other programs through CET to cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Trivandrum, Amritsar and more.

What motivated you to study this/these languages?

I started to realize how much I loved learning languages right before my first year at UW. It occurred to me during SOAR that I have the opportunity to learn a language that is less accessible to someone who isn’t enrolled in a degree program.

Mandarin was something that seemed interesting to me because of how many times I had been told how challenging it is. So I decided to try it out and see if it was as difficult as people had claimed. To my excitement, it was easy.

When I realized how easy it can be to learn a language once you enjoy learning it, I decided to try another. It was then I saw a poster for SASLI (the South Asian Summer Language Institute). I applied for Hindi because it was the only language I recognized at the time and found myself taking 8 credits of Hindi in the Summer.

Finally, during my third year at UW, the option to study Bangla as a distance student through the University of Chicago through a partnership with UW came up. I had enough credits and was always a bit curious about other South Asian languages after my summer at SASLI.

How have these languages enriched your life?

I can’t begin to describe how vastly different my life would be without languages. I wouldn’t have gone to China or India. I wouldn’t have the job or experience I have now without languages.

Because of these languages, it’s easier to make connections to other languages. So now I try and learn every language I can – even if it’s a few words here or there.

The people in my life know my love for languages and that was cultivated and nurtured at UW-Madison.

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

What I loved about my Mandarin classes was that we had discussion everyday. Even though I may not have appreciated it at the time, I was able to pick up a lot more, much quicker thanks to it.

I still remember having chai in some of my Hindi classes and having wonderful discussions because the class sizes were small- which is a fantastic perk of studying a less commonly taught language.

For my Bangla class, I was able to attend class in bed in my pajamas and my laptop while still getting a lot of great attention and interaction.

Did you participate in ___________ as a UW student? (Check a box if yes)

Study abroad

Please talk about the value of these experiences

I was fortunate enough to study abroad on three-semester programs in China, Thailand, and India and two short term programs in the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

Every single time I went abroad, I learned something new and came away with immeasurable experiences that still benefit me to this day. On some programs, I improved language skills while on other programs I gained knowledge about the region and relations to the US.

I would not have my job today if I did not go abroad on the UW in India program.

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

Because I currently live in India, specifically North India, my Hindi has improved vastly since I graduated. My conversation and comprehension skills have improved simply because I need to speak, listen, read, and write in Hindi to do my job better. Because Varanasi has a good amount of Bangla speaking residents, my Bangla has also improved. This is simply by making an effort to speak in Bangla and in Hindi and engage with the community and city around me.

For Mandarin, it has been a little harder because I do not interact in Mandarin the same way I do with my other languages. I do practice writing my characters when I have the chance and try and watch a Chinese show on Netflix from time to time. I’ve also gone back over old textbooks from class for reading prompts and grammar points. It’s a bit of a challenge, but it all comes back pretty easily.

What advice do you have for current language students?

1)Do your best to speak the language in your classes and don’t worry about messing up. Focus on the goal of making communicating in your language easily. I still make incorrect grammar and tense mistakes daily, but people are more impressed with how I can communicate.

2) Follow/connect with both the language department as a whole, your language department, alumni, and any other places that would have anything to do with a language you study or are interested in. You never know what opportunities you may be missing!

3) Look for funding options everywhere. I was able to fund my study abroad to Varanasi, India because I applied for funding through FLAS- which is something I highly recommend applying for if you are studying a less commonly taught language. Boren, Flagship programs, and CLS are fantastic opportunities to look into.

4) If there is another language you are interested in, see if you can enroll in it. Curiosity and interest led me to the language I study, which in turn led me to my first job. There are numerous languages at UW-Madison are your disposal that are difficult to access once you graduate.

5) Study abroad where the language you are taking is spoken. This is an amazing experience and a fantastic way to improve your language. You get to actually use the language you are learning in context. Even if you make mistakes most people really love when you are learning the local language and making an effort to communicate in it. I can’t tell you how many positive experiences I’ve had in China and India because I knew some Hindi, Mandarin, and Bangla.

6) Don’t compare yourself and your language progress to others or focus on where you “should” be. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, semesters, or even years to have the language really “click”. It can be extremely frustrating to not see any progress when you are in the “intermediate” and “advanced” levels of your language study.

One great thing my first year Hindi professor told the class during our first Hindi class ever was Beginning Hindi (or any language at the start) is like a little test tube. Every day you come to class, you take a little dropper, and drop one drop of knowledge into the test tube. You see it fill up very fast! Then you move on to intermediate and advanced language: the bathtub. You are still adding the same drop of knowledge every day, but cannot see it fill up as you did with the test tube. So don’t feel discouraged that you are in the bathtub of language! It is an accomplishment.

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

“आराम से” Aram se

The translation means “restfully” or “comfortably”. However, a lot of people use it in the context “slow down” or “easy” or even “chill”.