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Alumni News and Updates

What can you do with a foreign language degree? If you've ever asked (or been asked) this question, this page is one place you can find the answer. Here, we post news, events, and updates on various alumni topics.

Featured Alumni

Each semester, our department contacts several of our former students to see what they're up to after graduation. Below you can read the profiles of several of our successful alumni to see not only where they are now, but where they've been that has led them to their current jobs.

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Matthew, UMD Class of '06

Degrees: German Studies B.A. and Biology B.S.

Current job: Store Operations Manager at Digital River in Minnetonka, MN

Why did you choose to study language?

Spanish was one of my favorite classes in high school. I enjoyed the challenge and was amazed at the insight it gave me into Latin American/Spanish culture. I was also impressed with how, in learning a foreign language, I gained a far greater understanding of my first language. I decided to switch to German at UMD mainly because of my family's German background. I later chose to pursue German Studies as a major because:

1) I loved it and found it extremely valuable.

2) I was impressed with the passion and drive of the German Studies faculty, and the highly personalized education I received from them.

3) My fellow German Studies classmates were highly enthusiastic about the subject, which made the whole experience all the better.

Did you study abroad? Tell us about it.

I spent a month in Potsdam/Berlin, Germany in 2003. Living abroad was an eye-opening and humbling experience. I had been to Europe a couple times in high school, but those trips had been all about sight-seeing. Going to Germany with UMD was about as close to the culture as possible--we lived and breathed both German and Germany for 4 weeks. By the end of the class I felt so comfortable in Germany that, for the first few days after my return to the United States, I felt odd. I had to reacclimate myself to my native culture. This was one of the coolest feelings of my life: to have been so immersed that I felt a pang of culture shock when I arrived home. I truly looked at the world differently after that trip.

How did your degree impact your career or ability to get a job?

Knowing a second language is a powerful skill to have. It has come up in every job interview I have ever been to, and has never failed to impress. I've used German throughout my career in both significant and subtle ways; if people know you can speak a second language, you'll get to use it. I've used my German skills for everything from translating manuals and leading introductory phone calls, to correcting spelling mistakes and breaking the ice with other German speakers. Although I don't get to speak German daily, it is rare for a week to go by that I don't leverage some aspect of my German Studies education in my career.

What advice do you have for current students of foreign languages at UMD?

First, study abroad as much as you can. I regret that I didn't do it more. Second, never underestimate the power of learning a second language; it opens up countless doors.

 

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Picture of Sarah at Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Sarah, UMD Class of '08

Degree: BA German Studies, BA International Studies

Current Job: External Corporate English Teacher at Okan University in Istanbul, Turkey

Why did you choose to study language?

I guess there were various factors which contributed to my decision. I had always been naturally attracted to foreign languages, so I picked German due to my family history. Majoring in a foreign language was also a nice complement to my other major, International Studies. Most importantly, however, I knew that I wanted to live in Germany after graduation. I also was attracted to UMD's German Studies Program as it not only teaches language, but culture, history, and literature, all components which cannot be separated from language.

Did you study abroad? Tell us about it.

I studied abroad during my junior year in Vienna, Austria through the IES program, and I also participated in a 3-week Potsdam/Berlin program. I'd have to say that Vienna truly impacted my life because it was the first time I had independently traveled outside the US. Not only did it push my language skills to the next level, but ultimately led to my decision to return to Europe after graduation. I came back to UMD with a completely different perspective on the world, had more self-confidence, and even a clearer focus on what I wanted to do with my life.

How did your degree impact your career or ability to get a job?

My degree in German opened so many doors. Directly upon graduation, I secured an internship with a Berlin-based NGO (which would have been impossible had it not been for my language skills). Secondly, due to my global perspective and level of German, I was awarded a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Nuremberg, Germany. Now, as an English teacher in Istanbul, I can easily say that due to my training in foreign languages, I can truly understand what my students are going through to learn another language.

What advice do you have for current students of foreign languages at UMD?

Do not pass up the chance to study abroad. It's one thing to learn a language in a classroom, but another when you are abroad being completely immersed in the language. Culturally speaking, you learn things that cannot be taught in a classroom. Also, don't be afraid to find a native roommate while abroad (versus living with a group of American students). This can make all the difference in your study abroad.

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Picture of Britney in Toledo, Spain in 2011

Britney, UMD Class of '09

Degree: Teaching Spanish (B.A.A.), Technology Certificate, currently pursuing a Masters in Elementary Education at UW River Falls

Current Job: Spanish Specialist for grades K-5

Why did you choose to study language?

I went to an Immersion School and have always had respect for the language [Spanish]. I loved language and wanted to instill it in others, hence, I became a teacher.

Did you study abroad? Tell us about it.

Guanajuato, Mexico, May Term Program, 2008. This program definitely expanded my quest for traveling around the world. More importantly, it gave me perspective on different ways of life. I have incorporated things I learned abroad into the classes I teach. I think it's important to be exposed to different ways of life at a young age in order to build an understanding of differences.

What advice do you have for current students of foreign languages at UMD?

Do all of your readings. Participate in class discussions. If you have the opportunity to travel abroad, I recommend that you go! It's such a great experience.

 

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