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The Power of Language

December 15, 2016

When College of Liberal Arts senior Owen Murray decided to study Spanish and Portuguese in college, he had no idea the kinds of possibilities these languages would bring him. From studying in Brazil to teaching Spanish in the Concordia Language Villages’ after school programs and becoming a peer advisor in the department, Murray is very grateful for all of the opportunities that the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies has connected him to. When reflecting on his experiences, he states, "There are a lot of incredible things you can learn from studying languages; it’s a door opener for so many experiences and relationships. It’s powerful."

Freshman year, Murray’s advisor encouraged him to take a couple of Portuguese classes in addition to his Spanish classes. He decided to go for it, and that decision has had a lasting impact on his college experience. Due to his newfound appreciation for Portuguese, Murray decided to participate in the TandemPlus program and was paired with an in-person speaking partner from Brazil, with whom he still stays in contact. This solidified his desire to study in Brazil, and he leapt at the opportunity to spend the spring semester of his junior year in Rio de Janeiro. While there, Murray joined a hiking and rock climbing club in the city of Rio de Janeiro where he made many lasting friendships. He also made strong connections within the local community by volunteering at the Museu de Favela, a museum in favela Cantagalo that was working on a memory exhibit focused on the oral histories that focused on influential women in its town. He spent his time there translating the exhibits from Portuguese into English. Owen reflects, "it is incredible experiencing another culture in the language of that culture rather than just learning about it."

Since returning from Brazil, Murray has continued to stay connected with Spanish and Portuguese and share his passion for the languages with people in the Twin Cities. He has accepted a position as an assistant elementary Spanish teacher through the Concordia Language Programs, and he also spends his time on campus in the Spanish and Portuguese department as a peer advisor, leading minor declaration sessions and answering questions about the majors and minors in the department. Murray enjoys sharing his experiences and love of these languages with others through these two positions.

The future is wide open for Murray. He is excited about the idea of possibly using his Spanish and Portuguese major along with his minor in geographic information science to create language maps of Spanish speaking countries, and he also likes the idea of continuing to teach these languages, but as of now he is still open to new opportunities for the future. No matter how he ends up using his major, Owen is confident that he will be able to use the skills and knowledge he has gained from study abroad and the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies in any capacity, regardless of where he ends up in the world.

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.