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Akin Walker

Class of 2010
Sapnish, Busines Management

Before I began my undergraduate collegiate career at Washington College, I had dreams of majoring in something related to linguistics.

I had my sights set on the Hispanic Studies program and it quickly became my main focus. My mother at first discouraged this, arguing that such a major would not make me marketable enough to find a decent job once I graduated. Four years later after graduating from Washington College with a double major in Business Management and Hispanic studies, I cannot help but positively reflect on the effect the Department of Modern Languages has had on my personal growth and my preparedness for the real world.

I began by taking upper-level Spanish courses with wonderful teachers. I discovered at this time that learning languages was truly my passion. Expressing my ideas in Spanish about Hispanic literature, history and culture was so much fun! Going to my Hispanic Studies classes allowed me to feel as if I was entering a completely different world and before long attending these classes became my guilty pleasure. My fluency increased and I began to feel that I could express myself in Spanish almost as much as I could in English.

As my freshman year progressed I started to associate myself with international students from all over the world. I often enjoyed testing my Spanish-speaking ability especially with the students from Spain. When speaking to them, I was forced to adjust my way of thinking to better communicate. With every conversation I learned something new. It soon dawned upon me that learning a foreign language was not only beneficial but also could be very fun.

Later I would notice a growth in my affinity for languages. I dabbled in both Portuguese and Japanese. I would attend the bate papos, tertulias and the Japanese department’s Happy Hours to increase my experiential knowledge of these languages. While my ability to communicate in these languages increased, my passion for learning about foreign cultures did as well. I started developing my own theories about learning languages and establishing effective ways to study. I was becoming worldlier, more cosmopolitan and I liked it.

Even after declaring my Hispanic Studies major at the end of my sophomore year, I was still reluctant to study abroad although I was well aware of the requirement; studying abroad is necessary in order to graduate with a major in Hispanic Studies. The fear of the unknown and the inevitable challenges that I would face while abroad were all factors that racked my brain before applying for the program. I just did not know what to expect. What if I could not adapt? What if my Spanish was not good enough? Eventually, I decided to put myself to the test and chose one of the shorter study abroad programs which was to Granada, Spain through the University of Delaware.

My semester in Granada, Spain was spectacular! My time there increased my proficiency of the Spanish language and confidence to survive in a foreign country with a distinct culture and language for a prolonged period. The Andalusian accent is infamous throughout the Spanish speaking world. Everyday my textbook Spanish was being challenged by colloquial phrases and native jargon to which I had never been exposed. It was quite a challenge to understand the accent. Even my host mother refused to pronounce participles or any words that ended in the letter “s”. The language barrier was at times a formidable opponent but never broke my will to increase my fluency in the language.

While in Granada, I could experience life from a Spaniard’s perspective. It greatly expanded my horizons and I was able to see the world in a different light. There were many great experiences but there were also bad experiences. Most importantly however, was that I had to grow up quickly while I was there to adjust and assimilate as much as possible. I learned how to be flexible, understanding and how to appreciate things that I never thought that I would. In addition to having such a fantastic learning experience, I also had the opportunity to make some great friends.

I now have a job working in Japan through one of the top eikaiwa or English teaching schools called AEON Corporation. This Japanese company founded in 1973 has dedicated itself to providing its students with a curriculum that emphasizes conversational English. My job as a Foreign Instructor for the company includes working with a team of teachers to ensure financial success of a local, AEON branch school, engaging students in English conversation while sharing and exchanging cultural information and finally assessing student progress through reports and counseling.

As one can imagine, there is a multitude of challenges and cultural nuances that I must accustom myself to in order to adapt. However, my experience as a Hispanic Studies major has prepared me for my life in Japan as funny as it sounds. I have gained confidence to put myself in situations where I am forced to learn from my surroundings so that I can grow. I can truthfully say that foreign languages have changed my life.

Undergrad Highlights

Q & A

Hometown? Gaithersburg, MD

Favorite thing about Washington College? Closely knit community

What would you never leave at home for college? My laptop

What not to bring to college? A pessimistic attitude

Why are you an RA?

Where are you an RA? East Hall

What is one thing you believe the freshmen should know before coming? Trust the RAs