Lara Welch 2012

Spanish Major
I remember thinking to myself how amazing the world is when I stepped into a white, red striped, taxi cab at Madrid Barajas airport for the first time. But, truly, I had no idea how defining learning Spanish would be post ten months of studying abroad! I originally decided to go to Spain because I wanted to explore my Spanish heritage. I thought becoming bilingual would open professional doors.  Well, I was right, being bilingual does open professional doors, but most importantly it opens avenues for exchange. During my time in Madrid, I was lucky enough to befriend my coworkers at La Fundación Juan March. By having them correct my Spanish and make jokes out of my mistakes, we all became a supportive, giggling family. The relationships that grew out of this group were profound. We shared everything from restaurant tips, cultural norms, political views, career goals, to relationship advice. But the most important thing that came out of our group friendship was the new- found appreciation for each other’s cultures. I became a Spaniard, and they developed a newfound, high respect for the USA. Learning Spanish has greatly enhanced my life in ways I could never have imagined. I have a Spanish family, a second place to call home, a second personality, and a second language.


Mary Barbagallo 2013

Spanish/Anthropology Double Major
In choosing to major in Spanish at Ursinus, I knew I would be fulfilling a dream of mine that started in middle school with my very first Spanish class. I love to talk and I loved the idea of being able to talk to even more people by becoming bilingual. After taking Spanish 111 and 112 my freshman year I decided to apply to study abroad in Madrid, Spain in the Fall 2010, the first semester of my sophomore year.  In choosing to do this I had made the decision to firstly, leave the country for the first time ever on a 4 month trip and leave behind all my new friends in only my third semester of college. In retrospect I might have been a little crazy, but given my experience I wouldn’t change it for the world.

 While abroad I was fortunate to have a wonderful host family who played a large part in helping me develop my verbal skills in the language as well as periodically helping me with my grammar questions. I took intensive Spanish language classes with local professors through International House and the CAPA program as well as a Culture and History and Art class with one of Ursinus’ Spanish professors and Madrid Native, Dr. Juan Ramon de Arana. I also held an internship teaching English in a local school. Four months passed too quickly and before I knew it I was back in the United States. This was not the end to my international adventure however and so I began to look for opportunities to continue to use my Spanish and international experience on campus.

I quickly became acquainted with the Center for International Programs Office much more closely and applied for a job there as an Office Assistant. I figured that since I was so lucky to have had the opportunity and experience I did what better way to serve the Ursinus community then to help others in their endeavors to study abroad. Furthermore, I pursued my interest by taking any and all classes which pertained to Spanish, Spain, or Latin America.  This led me to my second major, Anthropology and minor, Latin American Studies.

Having pursued my passion within the Spanish department, I am now looking to my upcoming senior year with fond memories. As I prepare to take my final Spanish course at Ursinus, my Senior Capstone I know my time spent at Ursinus has prepared me for the next steps in a career where I will use my Spanish. Next year will surely be bittersweet, but I am looking forward to what is to come with the hope of Graduate school for either Cultural Anthropology or Archaeology. I hope to use my degrees to eventually work as a curator in a museum and use my language skills in all sorts of settings that come with this which will hopefully include more trips to Spain and Latin America.Leah Tra

Q&A with Leah Troianello 2004

UC in Madrid
Q: How did your study abroad experience impact your life after graduation?
Other than gathering the experience in regards to language and culture, I became a much more independent person. The Ursinus in Madrid program was the first time I ever left the United States and the longest I had ever been away from home. I was scared and apprehensive about leaving in the first place...which is exactly how I felt when I left Madrid three months later. I did not want to leave Spain. It may sound strange but my time abroad extended beyond just the love of the language and culture. I learned how to resolve problems, manage my finances and be held responsible for all my decisions (whether it was getting on the right metro during my commute or completing a project for work)... all of which I could now do in two languages. All of these things helped prepare me for life after graduation. My internship allowed me to look at things in a different way than I was used to... to be more open minded and be amenable that the answer I am looking for may not always be the obvious one. I believe I became a better professional when I began my career because I could apply these experiences I had during my internship to my job.
Q: How did your internship in Madrid help you to learn Spanish language and culture?
A: I was able to experience what it was like to work in a typical Spanish business environment and understand how the work ethic differed from that of the US. Although it was a much more relaxed office than anything I had experienced up to that point, they still worked hard and expected deadlines to be met. I also think the internship was important because I was able to feel what it was like to be a true madrileña... rather than experiencing my time in Madrid as an outsider observing the culture and lifestyle. I felt this was important in truly understanding the society. Being able to tell people that I studied AND worked in Spain is something I am proud of and still think back of how lucky I was to have gotten the chance to experience.

Lauren Palazzi 2011

French / English Double Major

Of all of the experiences and skills that I learned while at Ursinus College, earning my French major was one of the most fulfilling. I never imagined that I would study a foreign language in college, let alone ultimately major and graduate with Honors in French. With the help of a very supportive advisor and dedicated professors, I found that learning another language wasn't just about words. 

I was lucky enough to study abroad in Aix-en Provence, France the fall semester of my junior year at Ursinus. It was during this time that I learned the most about myself, and truly discovered what communication meant. I was immersed in a world I didn't completely understand. I struggled to express myself and learned that we take the ability to communicate and be readily understood for granted every day. I also had the opportunity to tutor French students in English-which was challenging but extremely rewarding. Had I not dedicated my studies to French, had I never studied in Aix, I may have never learned that I was interested in all different forms of communication. More importantly, I became passionate about bridging communication gaps, especially with children. On a professional level, I feel that completing my French major has played an integral role in interviews and interactions. The French language is not a part of my current job in the sense that I don't speak it everyday. However, I use my French major every single minute. I use it in the way I view the world, the way I view myself, the way I view others, and I attribute my dedication to helping others be understood and communicate to my French major. In a way, it was through my French major that the world opened up to me-and continues to do so.  I am now working in a private school ‘Celebrate the Children” for mentally and physically challenged young students.

Margaux Thieme-Burdette 2010

French Major/ German Minor

I decided to major in French my freshman year because I was in love with the language and the culture. The French Department at Ursinus has helped my language skills grow through studying abroad in Strasbourg, and exploring my own interest in the German Occupation of France through research projects my Sophomore and Senior years. I gained a deeper sense of the history and culture attached to the language, which helped me connect with my French and German relatives. One thing I learned I will always take with me, both in my personal and professional life, is that it's important to be confident in the skills you have. If you're too afraid to speak the language and make mistakes, you will never progress.
My German heritage drove me to start taking language courses my second year at Ursinus. My grasp of German was very slight when I began, but the conversation hours with a native speaker, the opportunity to study abroad in Heidelberg, and the encouragement of the faculty helped me appreciate German culture and politics while progressing to a level of fluency in a short time period.

Washington Internship Institute (WII) is an educational nonprofit organization that prepares college students and recent graduates for their future in the professional world through internships in Washington, D.C. Once admitted, the individual is placed with an adviser, who helps search for internships based on his or her interests and goals. It is then the responsibility of the individual to apply and complete interviews with the organizations. The internship is four days per week for fourteen weeks. The other day of the week is spent in an Internship Seminar, which helps interns get the most out of their internships, as well as in either "International Relations: U.S. Policy and Practice" or "Inside Washington: Players, Politics, and Policy." I chose to participate in an internship through WII to get the full experience taking courses, creating my professional portfolio, and living with other D.C. interns. The program is also highly respected in the many organizations that have hired interns through it; organizations may give precedence to a WII scholar over someone who has not been through WII's application process. Through my interest in conflict resolution, I was hired by The Peace Alliance to do administrative and programmatic support work. That experience has opened my eyes to the complexities and difficulties of running a nonprofit. It also developed and expanded my professional skills as I engaged in event planning, writing articles and web content, researching, editing, and public outreach.

J'espere que tout ca n'etait pas trop longue! Dites-moi s'il faut que je le recrive. Et excusez mon retard, je demenagais de mon apartment parmi d'autres choses.

J'espere que tout va bien avec vous, a plus tard,


Nickie Sene 2006

French and International Relations Double Major
Studying French at Ursinus College transformed both my professional and personal life in ways I could never have imagined. As part of the French program at UC, I studied abroad in Saint Louis, Senegal for 6 months and completed a summer internship at the United States Embassy of Cotonou, Benin. After graduating in 2006, I joined the Peace Corps and served as a community development and education volunteer in rural, northwest Benin from 2006-2008. Since then, I have completed a MA in International Development Studies with a geographic focus on sub-Saharan, Francophone West Africa and a concentration in Women and Gender Studies. My Masters thesis entitled "The Politics of Female Adolescent Sexuality: Perceptions, Conceptualizations and Experiences of Transactional Teacher-Student Sexual Relationships in Northern Beninese Secondary Schools," was the product of 8 weeks of field research in several rural Beninese communities. Currently, I work as a Program Officer for Women's Campaign International (WCI), an international, non-profit organization which advances opportunities for women to actively participate in social, market and political processes. At WCI, I manage all programming based in the Middle East and North Africa region in addition to Afghanistan.

My French language skills and interest in Francophone Africa are a direct result of my studies at Ursinus College and have been at the core of the circuitous path which has brought me to where I am today. From Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Togo and Benin to Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon, French has been the key to bridging across cultures and communities and facilitating my access to the world.

Aralene (ArRie) Callahan 2004

French and Theater Double Major
M.A. from New York University
Ari successfully defended her dissertation on "Developing Theatrically: Staging Agency and Influence in Burkinabè Theatrical Production" in March 2012 at Wisconsin-Madison University.

Arrie new doctorate has an Ursinus connection—Professor Frances Novack’s Fulbright in Burkina Faso (1999-2000), through which she went to Burkina to work with the director/playwright/arts professor and his troupe who were the springboard for her focus and later work on the theatre of development.  Arrie's  has also done a lot to contribute to the theatrical community in Burkina,  as well as bring knowledge of it to this country.