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Foreign languages connect cultures

Boundaries between countries are blurred by modernization. Diverse values and economies intermingle, but without an understanding and appreciation of language, the beautiful and nuanced differences that highlight unique cultures cannot be fully celebrated.

Chauncy Johnson, a senior international business, Spanish and French major, revels in learning languages and traveling to foreign countries. “When you study language, it’s not just learning grammatical structures and how to conjugate verbs,” Johnson said.

“It’s a way to learn about other people, different cultures and ways of expressing yourself.”

Studying abroad is a requirement for the international business degree, and Johnson was ready to pack his bags for Barcelona. “The staff here were really helpful in going through the process and exploring travel options,” he added.

Johnson attended classes at a local university and found an internship in Spain. “I did an internship with a startup company that was manufacturing different products for pets,” he said. “Before that internship, I assumed I wasn’t interested in working in a traditional business setting.” But, now Johnson is keeping his options open. His advice for incoming students is to “take the time to take block courses or electives and figure out what you want to do.” Often, your passion can be found in unexpected areas of study or internships.

Fortunately for Johnson, interning for a company dedicated to pets matched up perfectly with his love of certain four-legged creatures. “If you know anything about me, it’s that I love cats,” he said. “In every one of the major cities, I went to cat cafes.”

Johnson’s prowess in Spanish has shaped his philanthropy. In his conversational Spanish class, the students participated in a youth mentoring program at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, which is predominantly Hispanic. “We went there to read and play with the kids. Also, I could practice Spanish,” he said. “That’s how I got started as a volunteer there.”

This summer, Johnson interned at the YWCA working with immigrant and refugee services. “The work they do involves helping clients with immigration cases and those working toward citizenship. They also offer English classes,” he explained.

Studying languages not only helped Johnson find internships and possible career options, but it also provided a deeper insight into people. “When you are talking to other people trying to communicate, you’re a lot more aware of how you say things and about cultural specificities,” he said.