LALS Students in the Spotlight

Raven Byars

 My name is Raven Byars and I am a junior majoring in Spanish, Latin American & Latino Studies, and Pan African Studies. This semester I am studying abroad in Lima, Peru with a program called CIEE and I'm having the time of my life!


Lima is a giant city filled with the mixture of Latin American, Asian, and African cultures. I have also spent my fair share of time outside of Lima to explore some beautiful nature sites. Perú is such a geographically diverse country of mountains, coast, dessert, and jungle. All are equally beautiful in different ways and I am still discovering something new about this country everyday!

If it weren't for study abroad scholarships, I would not be studying abroad! I received money from 4 different scholarships offered by my majors and the College of Arts and Sciences. I say this not to brag but to show how many scholarship opportunities there are, how willing they are to give money, and how much of a difference they can make for the cost of a study abroad trip. Even though I learned about Latin American culture in a classroom, the lessons and experiences I've had in Perú are unparalleled and have enriched my college experience so much. If you're even considering going abroad, do your research, apply for all the scholarships you can, and go have the time of your life! 

Mariah Levine

 Hello fellow LALSers,
My name is Mariah and I'm spending the Fall 2016 semester studying abroad in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. I'm living with a host family and attending university in Santiago de los 30 Caballeros, the second largest city in the DR. The program provider is CIEE- the Council on International Educational Exchange. 
The Dominican Republic is a fascinating place. I am learning a great deal about the country's history, culture, and politics. The food is wonderful (as long as you like rice and beans!) and I'm eating vast quantities of avocado and fresh tropical fruit.The Dominican accent can be pretty tricky to understand, given the Dominican tendency to "swallow" or elide letters and parts of words, but my ear is gradually adjusting and my Spanish skills are rapidly improving.
I strongly encourage you to pursue a study abroad opportunity if it's something that interests you. Studying about Latin America in the classroom is all well and good, but spending time in Latin America is a completely different beast: challenging, to be sure, but incredibly rewarding. My study abroad experience wouldn't have been possible without the support of scholarship funds, so I encourage you to take advantage of the many funding sources available through UofL to help make study abroad a viable possibility for you! It is *so* worth it. Wishing you all a fun and fruitful semester. See you in the Spring!

Marie-Elena Ottman

This summer, Marie-Elena Ottman, an LALS Graduate Certificate and MFA candidate, completed the LALS Graduate Internship with Doors to Hope. One of her projects was directing children to create bilingual, illustrated storybooks.

She also collaborated with her Fine Arts Professor, Mary Carothers, on the Mayor's art exhibit, Connect/Disconnect, on the Waterfront. There's an LALS and Panamanian connection to this story; Marie-Elena is Panamanian and Mary Carothers received an LALS Lewis Fellowship in 2010 to collaborate with the Impacto Photography Project in Bocas del Toro, Panamá. Professor Carothers also discovered a Panamanian connection with their Waterfront exhibit: “Local historian Tom Owen informed me that this area was once known as Little Panama. Bananas were shipped from Panama, up the Mississippi, on to the Ohio River and then distributed from this area to various states in the Midwest,” she said.


Maggie Whittle

Maggie WhittleAs a first year graduate student in the Linguistics department, I decided to add on the LALS Graduate Certificate because of my previous experience as a Latino Studies Minor during my undergraduate years.  Before beginning school, I worked as Program Assistant at the Backside Learning Center, a center on the backside of Churchill Downs devoted to enhancing the lives of the workers on the backside, many of which are not from the United States.  Later, again before my studies began, I accepted a job as an ESL and Spanish Instructor at Bowen Elementary School, and have loved every minute of it!  I owe my previous experience as an intern at the Backside Learning Center through my LALS minor as a key component of my resume in finding these positions.  Moreover, during this first semester working toward the LALS Graduate Certificate, I have been an intern at three different nonprofit medical facilities: The Family Community Clinic, Kentucky Racing Health Services Center, and the GLOH Clinic through the UofL Medical School.  The clinics offer free health services to the uninsured.  This internship has truly opened my eyes to the many discouraged Spanish-speakers in our community due to their every day health concerns and the obstacles of language.  I feel that my internship has impacted not only the lives of the Spanish-speakers, but my life as well.  I enjoy every evening I spend at the clinics and, though upsetting at times, know that I am helping to mend the bridge in language borders.  Although it has been quite a juggle this semester with a new job, my graduate classes, and my internships, I would not change anything for the world! 

Jerome Soldo

Jerome SoldoGreetings from Chile!  My choice to major in LALS coupled with my desire to travel to South America has relocated me to Osorno, Chile, located in the Lakes District of northern Patagonia.  I am attending the Universidad de Los Lagos for the duration of the fall 2013 semester, where I live in a home stay with a hilarious Chilean couple and three roommates from Spain and Chile.  So far, I’ve been busy dissecting sentences to their grammatical cores, reading poems by Chilean icon Pablo Neruda, and analyzing Latin America’s unique literary movements through my four Spanish-language classes.  Furthermore, I am reading novels on my Kindle by famous South American authors to expand my understanding of the continent’s sociopolitical framework, and I am supplementing my academics with extracurricular volunteer and research opportunities.  But schoolwork isn’t all that consumes a study abroad experience, if but a third of it.  

My three-day weekends are reserved for travel around Chile, and an easy border crossing opens up southern Argentina as well.  I’ve already visited museums and barhopped in Santiago, eaten fresh seafood alongside sea lions in Puerto Montt, trekked in snowshoes through the Cañi Nature Sanctuary, and swam in a freezing-cold pool at the base of an 85 meter waterfall outside of Pucón.  Next weekend is already booked with a pre-celebration for Chile’s independence day (which is still a month away) with Chilean friends from class, skiing some of South America’s best slopes, and biking a circuit around lakes with black sand beaches.  My fellow international students from Spain, Mexico, Colombia, France, and Germany have made great travel partners, and we are becoming a really close group of friends as well.    

For those who are considering studying abroad, I do want to point out that the experience is not devoid of hard times.  My drastic lifestyle change has been exciting by all means, but I already miss simple things that I seem to always have taken for granted, like my daily bagel/coffee from Einstein’s and jogging the streets of Old Louisville... not to mention my close relationships with friends and family.  I am often faced with a language barrier, and it is still tough to keep up with the conversation at the dinner table or express myself in a deep conversation.  However, I welcome these challenges.  My Spanish repertoire increases rapidly, I make friends from all over the world, and I have become stronger, more independent, and more appreciative of the opportunities I have been given and will continue to pursue.  If anybody reading this is considering studying abroad in Chile or in any other Spanish-speaking country, know that I’m always available via Facebook or Email and would love to help out with any questions or doubts you may have.  It is a truly incredible experience and you must take the chance to experience it for yourselves!

Que les vaya bien,   
Jerome Soldo
Sophomore LALS Major

Universidad de Los Lagos Newsletter

Jerome was also featured on UdLL's website!