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Hola! My name is Felipe Swann.
While most universities prepare students for their future, Salisbury University actually defined mine. During my time studying Spanish for my undergraduate degree, I was exposed to things that would later set me on the path to graduate school in one of the top programs in the country. My major had changed several times while attending SU. Spanish was always part of my life, but without a degree to verify my proficiency in the language, I was constantly being turned down for jobs that I was actually qualified for. When I finally decided on a Spanish major, what I thought was going to be a quick two years to get the degree and move on turned out to be the most important two years of my life.
During the program, I was being exposed to Literature and Culture courses from both Spain and Latin America. The incredible professors that I had, who continue to be my mentors to this day, exposed me to new ways of thinking. Having been inspired by two of my courses, I wrote a poem that applied class material to the current world. This impressed my professors and soon discussion about graduate school came up. The original idea was to get a Master’s in Hispanic Culture and Literature. However, the winter and spring semester of 2016 changed everything.
During the winter of 2016, I went abroad to Argentina where I studied Argentine politics, specifically the years during the dictatorship. While abroad, I had the opportunity to meet two famous Argentine writers: Maria Teresa Andruetto in Córdoba and Angela Pradelli in Buenos Aires. After reading some of Andruetto’s novels related to the dictatorship, the class was invited to her house in Córdoba to have lunch and discuss her work.I felt particularly lucky because I was able to have a one-on-one meeting with her and share one of my poems written in Spanish. It was a defining moment in my life when she told me that I had a talent and should pursue it. During my stay in Argentina, I also read Pradelli’s book called En mi nombre (2014), a compilation of stories about disappeared people during the Argentinean dictatorship. Towards the end of the program, we had the opportunity to meet Pradelli and discuss the book and the implication of such impactful testimonies. Both authors opened my eyes to just a fragment of the issues Latin America still has to face, which are still kept hidden by the government. This experience is what made me decide officially that graduate school was the next step.
During the spring of 2016, I presented my paper “Preserving Memories: Stories of Identity Restitutions” at the Salisbury University Student Research Conference (SUSRC) in which I discussed Pradelli’s work. For the first time, I was understanding the meaning and importance of the concept of Memory in order to understand History and bring awareness to the past, so such atrocities are not repeated in the future. Also during the semester, I was taking a Spanish for Business course (SPAN 322), where I learned about the International Bank for Development, and a Sociology course (SOCI 339) that focused on immigration. Those two courses, in addition to my Study Abroad experience in Argentina (SPAN 300) are what fully defined what my future goals: a Master’s of Public Affairs and a Master’s of Latin American Studies. My future was clear: I wanted to give back to the world, change it in any way I could, and fight for human rights. I chose those two degrees so that I could be looked upon as a knowledgeable person regarding Latin America and so that I could get my foot into the government. My ultimate goal is to work for the International Bank for Development and focus on Latin America.
Currently I am attending Indiana University, working on a dual degree. Salisbury University refined my skills and gave me the competitive edge to move forward and gain acceptance into the number one program in the United States. In addition to my studies and research, I am also teaching Spanish 200. I have been exposed to many more resources and people. Whereas some of my colleagues have been nervous and intimidated, I have been fully prepared and ready thanks to SU, but more importantly, to my awesome and supporting professors that saw something in me that I did not at the time and pushed me in the right direction.
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I am currently obtaining my Master’s degree in education at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York. I will be certified in French and Spanish by December 2018, and I hope to obtain my TESOL certification shortly after.
The experience and opportunities that I received during my undergraduate studies at Salisbury University have thoroughly prepared me to succeed in graduate school. In September of 2014, I embarked on a journey to Paris, France where I completed an international internship with a startup company, Boaterfly. I worked alongside others from various parts of the globe. During this time, I was able to practice the French language as well as be fully immersed in the culture. I lived with a French woman who spoke no English and I was able to speak to her about my day, as we enjoyed delicious meals together. This opportunity that Salisbury presented me with was incomparable to any others. The following summer, June 2015, I studied abroad in Malaga, Spain. Here, I attended the University of Malaga and was learning Spanish with other students from all over the world while living with a host family. I met students from China, France, Canada, Italy and Hungary. Not only was I immersed in the Spanish culture, but my eyes were also opened to other points of view and other mindsets from other cultures. Because of this, I decided one year later to study abroad again, but this time in Argentina. Those three experiences abroad changed me and sparked my interest in pursuing a career in languages.
In 2016, I became an intern for the Pinehurst Elementary School program. I worked with underprivileged children on a daily basis (180 hours total) and was responsible for managing the tutoring program, which utilizes SU students as mentors for elementary students. I communicated on a regular basis with my SU advisor, the tutors, Pinehurst Elementary School Pa and staff. I also served to provide assistance with daily academic activities and supervise the children to ensure that they were behaving appropriately and safely. This required leading the children in activities, playing games, and reading, etc. This experience gave me confidence in my leadership, communication and interpersonal skills.
The spring semester of 2016, I did an independent study with one of my French professors. During this time, I had read many variations of the children’s book, "Little Red Riding Hood", or in French, "Le petit chaperon rouge". Upon collecting different versions from different points in time, I was able to compare the book between the French and American culture. I learned that this book has more values and lessons than just a little girl walking through the woods to deliver food to her sick grandmother. Looking back on my research, I cannot wait to use this children’s book to use for a lesson in my future classroom.
Upon graduating Salisbury University in May 2016, I have had many amazing opportunities. The following September, I packed my bags and flew to Santander, Spain where I rented an apartment. For three months, I used this apartment as a home base, while I traveled around Spain using public transportation to cities such as, Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Burgos. However, I had also planned more expansive trips to London, Amsterdam, and Barcelona, and of course back to France. During these three months, I was absorbing and enjoying cultures as well as increasing my proficiency in the languages. I had attended “intercambios” where I would practice my Spanish and a Spanish speaker would practice their English.
Upon returning home in January of 2017, I was a substitute teacher at Mattituck Junior-Senior High School and Southold Elementary School where I decided that I wanted to pursue teaching. I applied to graduate school to obtain my Master’s degree at Stony Brook University and began taking classes as a non-matriculated student during the summer of 2017. By August, I was accepted to the M.A.T program and started my Methods courses that fall. During that semester, I had the opportunity to observe many talented language teachers.
During the Fall of 2017, I was a leave replacement at Miller Place High School where I taught five different levels of French. The students ranged from junior high to seniors in high school. This was a very challenging and sometimes frustrating experience, but in the end, was a valuable rewarding lesson. I learned so much about the daily working of a French teacher, from the enormous amount of preparation, classroom management, delivery of the lessons, and grading homework and tests. I really enjoyed working with my students and watching them learn. Currently, I am in my second semester of the M.A.T. program where I continue to be a substitute teacher at Mattituck High School and am I am also fortunate to be observing dynamic teachers.
Pertaining specifically to Salisbury University, I double majored in French and Spanish where I had the best professors. We, as language majors, are given an abundance of individual attention as well as encouragement and motivation to pursue the language and to study abroad. The professors always had their doors open and provided assistance and guidance whenever I needed it.
I entered Salisbury University as an undecided major, but after a few classes with some of my SU professors, I was influenced by their passion and enthusiasm about the language. Not only did I decide to study languages because of the professors at Salisbury, but I decided to pursue education in hopes to inspire, motivate and encourage others to learn languages too.
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