Beginning as a midterm project for my French Business class at the College of Charleston in the Spring 2019, I created Access With Languages to bring together my passion for language learning and my passion for academic and professional accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
While reflecting on my experience with language learning & tutoring, study abroad, accessibility, and career development, I composed the title of this website, Access With Languages, as a double play on words:
- No matter who you are, learning another language gives you access to personal and professional opportunities to learn, grow, and provide for yourself and your family.
- For individuals with disabilities , linguistic and cultural access provides all of what I mention in the first point; but also within those opportunities, foreign language accessibility provides independence, because depending on where you live in the US, public transit can be the difference between living independently, or co-dependently with parents, adult siblings, et cetera.
I believe that everyone, with or without a disability, can benefit from developing their linguistic and cross-cultural competencies. It is important to understand that linguistic proficiency and cultural competency is not one particular level success, but rather an ongoing life-long learning process that continues to develop as you engage with different cultures throughout the world.
Never Give Up
The Four Cornerstones
Why are these 4 Aspects Important and How do they fit together?
- Language Learning and Tutoring: As you will see throughout this website, I have a strong affinity for language learning and how it can and should play an important role in your life. Learning multiple languages has helped me to developed different perspectives and cultivate numerous friendships and professional connections. What started out in high school as a passion for cultural history and family genealogy, has grown into a passion for other related subjects such cultural diplomacy and soft power, historical and comparative linguistics, et cetera. For the longest of times, I considered many different language related careers. First, after becoming interested thanks to my high school French teacher, I thought of teaching high school French. However, soon I also began to ponder the opportunities other than teaching high school such as working as a tour guide/tour director, interpreter, translator, and localization specialist. After doing a one google search I found the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey in Monterrey, California. From 10th grade French to my 4th year of undergrad, (my undergraduate education lasted 6 years), I considered various combinations of masters degrees in interpretation, translation, localization, foreign language teaching, and study abroad management. However, after my internship in Germany through the College of Charleston’s Cultural Vistas Internship program that all changed my career projection… (of course in a good way). (Refer to Study Abroad Section below to read about how my German Internship in 2017 changed my career aspirations). I began to tutor German and Russian at College of Charleston in the Fall of 2018, after returning from my summer study abroad experience in Russia as a part of the Critical Languages’ Scholarship Program. It was during this joyous time as a language tutor that I realized that I could be become certified as a professional tutor, and as a result, I could use this skill to satisfy my desire to teach, because I have always enjoyed educating others and seeing them succeed. As a result of realizing this fact, I knew that I could turn my primary focus to administrative roles in higher education disability services and international education as a Student Accessibility Specialist or Transition Support Counselor.
- Study Abroad: In addition to language learning in the classroom, and passing your knowledge onto others through teaching and/or tutoring, study abroad is an important tool in the language development journey, and as I mentioned above my internship in Germany, which was also my first time outside of the country, proved to be life changing. This first experience abroad was life changing for two reasons: 1) Especially, since it was an internship program, it helped me develop professionally. 2) The experience boosted my self confidence and independence. Originally, going into the internship selection process, I wanted an internship with a localization agency in Germany, because I knew in order to have a better chance at pursuing a master degree in translation and localization at the Middlebury Institute, it was crucial to have this work experience in that industry. However, I did not receive an offer from a localization company. Instead I received and accepted an offer from an international non-profit community service company. Looking back now, accepting the offer from that non-profit was one of the best decisions of my life. While completing this internship at Internationale Begegnung in Gemeinschaftsdiensten in Stuttgart, Germany, I began to think about accessibility to higher education, international education, and entry into the job market for individuals with disabilities.
- Accessibility: Academic and professional accessibility has become a key cornerstone to my career aspirations, because of how I realized during both of my experiences abroad how much personal and professional accessibility languages provide to everyone. Instead of pursing a career in interpretation, translation, and/or localization, I felt that a career in higher education was more engaging and rewarding, because I would be helping students succeed. Not only do I feel compelled to work with students to reach their goals, but also to help other students with disabilities access language learning and study abroad opportunities, so that they can become active and productive professionals in society.
- Career Development: Being the fourth cornerstone, career development plays an important role in anyone’s professional life. However, I became particularly interested in this process after looking at my German and French undergraduate advisers’ process as inspiration. Both of these advisers are the internship program coordinators in their respective languages. With their example, I saw how language study could turn into a rewarding career. The whole process of classroom to job market over time has become very interesting to me. Now as I continue to grow personally and professionally, I look forward to giving back to the generations before me and to the generations to come.
*** For anyone who has ever thought how is that person going to build a career with languages or any other humanities subject, I hope this synopsis of my career development journey shows you that anything is possible. The key is to develop a plan, be proactive, and ignore the doubters in your life ***
To sum up all four cornerstones: Of course I would like everyone to learn languages and to see their personal and professional potential as a multilingual citizen. However, specifically,I want to help individuals with disabilities learn languages, study abroad and then help them to discover ways to incorporate those experiences into their personal and professional development.