Korean minor Sarah Koolbeck was awarded a Critical Languages Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. She writes about this exciting news:

"I will be studying this summer at Yonsei University in Wonju from June 11th to August 10th. I will have 20 hours per week of Korean classroom instruction time (yippeeeeeee!!! ^^) and will also be taking part in community activities. These are supposed to include both volunteer activities and visiting cultural sites. I will be living in the dorms, and I will have a Korean roommate. I will also get to do a home-stay with a Korean family for a week!!! I'm only allowed to speak Korean while I am there, which is a little intimidating, but I believe that I can do it. I still don't fully realize that I am actually able to go."

The achievements of these seniors will be recognized at a CAHSS Reception on April 29:

Recent alumnus Dan Demmitt (B.A. 2013, summa cum laude, MLLI Language and Cultural Studies with a focus on Korean) writes about his study abroad experience in South Korea:

At Home in a Hostel in Seoul

Flavors of foods I had never tasted before, mountains in the middle of the downtown district, friendships fully in a second language, and firsthand perspective into another culture’s politics and way of thinking--these are some of the things I experienced that amazed me during my study abroad time in South Korea from June to December 2012. What stands out the most from my time in Seoul though is the two month period between academic semesters I spent living in a hostel.

The hostel owners were a Korean family, and the staff were Korean as well, but the guests, like me, came from all over the world. China, Japan, Egypt, Germany, France, Romania, Vietnam, Russia, Thailand, Canada, the United States, and Mexico are just some of the countries the hostel guests called home. Although I was in a foreign country living alongside people from all over the world, the hostel somehow came to feel like a home.

My first night there, a man from China shared a meal with the rest of the guests and me. As we all ate and talked, we started to get to know each other, and that night set the tone for the rest of my stay there. We all frequently cooked and shared meals and stories in the hostel’s kitchen; we shared two small communal bathrooms and slept in bunk beds on the three floors of the small row-house style guesthouse. We explored Seoul and the surrounding areas together, including a one-day trip to Cheonan, the home town of the hostel owner, when he asked me to translate for the other guests because of my Korean language skills.

Although we spoke a bit in all the languages the guests knew and a fair amount in Korean, the most commonly used language was still English. I realized firsthand some of the privilege of having American English as my native tongue. My English skills gained me respect and even envy from some of the other guests.

Some of the guests stayed longer than I did, while many stayed only a few days. Some guests were tough or withdrawn, while others were ebullient with generosity. However, regardless of our countries of origin, our ages, or our reasons for being there, in that hostel, for that time, all of us from around the globe felt like a family.

Senior Leah Ginty writes:

I am graduating in May with a B.A. in MLLI (French), and in September I will be starting an M.A. program in French Literature and Culture at Boston College.  My teenage self would have been surprised to hear such news, for in middle and high school I was a rather withdrawn B- French student.  It wasn’t until I came to UMBC that I grew to love being a French student, as I’ve discovered here that the studying language and culture expands and deepens my political convictions and identity.  It’s scary yet empowering to now be aware of how every time I speak, I am committing a political act.

I feel very privileged to have spent my undergraduate years improving my French speaking skills as well as developing what I think of as cultural “double vision” (interpreting the world with two different perspectives) through a diverse set of experiences and classes.  Throughout my time here, I’ve been a French peer tutor and studied French classical music on piano and harpsichord. My graduate school plans are inspired by the generous encouragement I have received from my MLLI professors.  After Dr. Judith Schneider indicated that I had a “vrai don” for textual analysis on an essay in Fall 2012, a don of which I had been unaware, I felt motivated to develop the skill further.  Now I am looking forward to spending the next two years engaged in francophone literature studies, further exploring the power of language.

During Fall 2013, students enrolled in French 340 (Interconnections: Social and Historical Confluences) undertook a semester-long project in which they introduced Haiti’s cultural and social history at various campus events. On November 20, 2013, they presented a brief history of Haiti (past and present) in front of a large audience formed by professors and fellow students. The French 340 students also organized and executed an online fundraising campaign for medical aid in Haiti through Partners in Health, a trusted nonprofit working to fight malnutrition, malaria, and tuberculosis in Haiti.

The project ended on a contemporary note with a film screening of Lift Up (Huguens Jean and Philip Knowlton, 2011) organized by MLLI on December 4, 2013. Lift Up tells the story of two brothers, Clifford and Huguens, who return to their land of birth shortly after the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2011. They fulfill a promise made to their grandfather, Andre Torchon, who died shortly after the earthquake. Filmmaker Huguens Jean was present at the event to introduce the film and students participated in a lively question-and-answer session at the end of the screening.

Thank you to all who supported the Haiti project! —Dr. Nicoleta Bazgan

The tenors and basses of the UMBC Russian Chorus congratulated the altos and sopranos (including Russian instructor Vira Zhdanovych) on the occasion of International Women’s Day, an official holiday in Russia (Международный Женский день), as it was in the former Soviet Union. 

Photos courtesy of Yuriy Buha.

Successful German Immersion STEM Day

On the first day of March, 11 students of German and MLLI faculty member Susanne Sutton attended a German Immersion STEM Day at North County High School in Glen Burnie, Maryland. The day was full of experiMINTS (MINT is the German acronym for STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Students of German from Lindale Middle School, North County High School and UMBC joined forces in 4 STEM inspired workshops. In one workshop, students built “hurricane houses” and could choose from diverse materials such as card board, foam or wood. The houses were later tested in a wind tunnel to see if they could withstand hurricane-like forces. Another workshop had students program LED light sequences with arduino, an open source electronics prototyping platform. Yet another encouraged students to design efficient house insulation layering.

On Sinnespfad, (“a nature walk for the senses”), students were led through nature stations while being blindfolded and barefoot. Three students of German from UMBC, Brittney Geelhaar, Kelly Champine and Blair Connolly served as facilitators and led participants through the nature path. Erika Bishoff served as runner and announcer. Students experienced stations such as “Matsch” (mud, emulating the German wadden sea) or Flusssteine (river stones). Sinnespfad was prepared by UMBC faculty member Susanne Sutton. Participants from MLLI’s German program were William Luco, Santosh Malaki, William Klotz, Tyler Sousa, Elizabeth Klein, Joshua Williams, and Connor Simke.

The German area of MLLI can add the distinction of “matchmaker” to its resume. UMBC alums John Hager (2010, German) from Frederick, Maryland and Tereza Kaplanová (2010, Political Science and German minor), a Czech native and former UMBC swimmer, announced their engagement earlier this year. John and Tereza met at UMBC while attending upper level German classes. After graduation, they moved to Brussels, Belgium to pursue graduate degrees. They are currently living in Prague in the Czech Republic. Their wedding is planned for October 2014. Alles Gute für die gemeinsame Zukunft, Tereza und John!

Photo: John Hager and Tereza Kaplanová during a recent visit to UMBC.

The UMBC Linguistics Club

UMBC's linguistics club started out as a place to share passion. We found we could discuss linguistic concepts for hours on end and still be left wanting for more. We soon realized that we were not alone in this desire for knowledge and brought together a small group of linguistic majors and minors to share our collective knowledge.

Since then we have become the first officially recognized linguistics club at UMBC and have branched out to accept anyone interested in language. Linguistics gracefully interconnects with nearly every discipline – psychology, biology, history, physics, mathematics, philosophy, politics, and more.

Before each meeting we send out a newsletter detailing what our goals are for the following meeting.  During the meetings members then discuss the topic initially and any subsequent ideas that come from that are addressed. Following the meeting we send out a second newsletter describing the topics and activities that were actually discussed for any members that were unable to attend. If any members are working on research projects we discuss that as a group and offer support.    

Our future goals for the club are to invite guest speakers from multiple language backgrounds to discuss how language affects them both positively and negatively. We would like to begin attending colloquiums and possibly even conferences.  

It is through language that mankind has been able to document history. It is language that helped us create prose that has redefined our very understanding of the cosmos. Language can even take the most complicated emotion, love, and express it in three simple syllables.

If you want to know how language as a science works, or simply want to explore the connections to your own major – we hope to see you at one of our regular meetings! —The Linguistics Club

Students of SPAN 308 (Latinoamérica y sus Culturas) celebrated the end of classes for fall semester 2013 with Latino food and a lot of humor and fun. Here is one of the pictures of the day. —Dr. Sara Poggio.


The MLLI department was very well represented at the recent MFLA (Maryland Foreign Language Association) Spring Conference. Faculty members Milvia Hernández and Susanne Sutton as well as Graduate Teaching Assistant Eva Piera gave presentations at the conference, held at Mt. Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore.

Pictured from left to right are faculty members Milvia Hernández (Spanish), Kyung-Eun Yoon (Korean), Susanne Sutton (German), María Manni (Spanish), and graduate students Eva Piera, María Pérez and Sabina Foisor. (Not pictured: Ana María Schwartz [Spanish]).

Dr. Sara Poggio has established a new "International Migration" section of the Latin American Studies Association. The new section is organizing a conference on May 21, 2014 in Chicago, prior to the international annual meeting of the Association to be held at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago.

Joan Costello, Coordinator of the IMC (International Media Center), will be retiring this semester after 41 years of service to UMBC. Her last day on the job is May 30th. 

Joan was a member of UMBC’s fourth graduating class—the class of 1973. She had worked in the Kuhn Library as a student, and returned soon after graduating to work there full time in their Media Library and later added Audio-Visual Services, which was then part of the library. After the newly-formed Department of Instructional Technology took over AV services, together with the Media Center and television studio, Joan began her long association with what is now the IMC.

During her tenure as IMC coordinator, Joan has worked with a very international group of students, including MLLI students whose study abroad mementos and stories have lent a global atmosphere to the IMC.

Joan’s first task in retirement will be to “declutter” her attic and basement.  She has deeply enjoyed the years of working with MLLI faculty and staff. The sentiment is mutual! —Steve Young

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