Benjamin Chang, '09

Benjamin Chang, Spanish Language School, '09

Benjamin, why did you study Spanish at Middlebury College?

I decided to study Spanish at Middlebury because after living in Madrid my first two years after college I wanted to truly perfect my language skills and immerse myself in Spanish language and culture. It truly was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and my experience was phenomenal. All of my coursework was top-notch, but several classes during my studies at the Sede Prim in Madrid stood out particularly. One example is Oral Communication, where I was able to synthesize and deepen the usage and understanding of the language skills I had acquired during my undergraduate studies and time spent living in Spain. Another was El Quixote, in which I had the privilege of studying the great work with one of Spain’s most prominent Cervantes scholars. Finally, I will always remember the opportunity I had to work independently with an acclaimed figure in the study 20th Century Spanish literature and culture on a project linking the theatre of playwright Antonio Buero Vallejo with Franco-era Spanish society.

What do the Foreign Languages and Humanities mean to you?

To me, the Humanities are the very core of what defines us as a society. The study of Letters is something that lies so close to our essence as people, as nations, as cultures. How we express ourselves (whether it be through language, art, music, etc) comes to define who we are as a community, and to be knowledgeable about these things - in any language - is to gain access to the heart of human existence. As a language learner this study becomes all the more exciting, as we are given the tools to discover a whole new set of defining cultural features.

How has the study of Languages and Humanities shaped your professional and personal life?

My studies at Middlebury have been of utmost value to me in my professional life. I interact in Spanish with numerous individuals each day, and not a day goes by that I do not draw on my Middlebury education. The study of languages has gone from a personal interest to an academic pursuit to something that veritably defines part of my character. My experience at Middlebury and subsequent Spanish-language journey have allowed me to see the world in a different way, given me access to a culture and a people that I would otherwise be unable to reach in such close proximity, and piqued my interest in expanding the journey to other languages. Spanish for me is not simply a job, but more a lens through which to view the world, and a portal through which I may experience life.

What recommendations or advice would you give to students thinking about studying Spanish or Portuguese, or pursuing a major in the Humanities?

My biggest recommendation to anyone considering studying Spanish would be to commit fully to the challenge. Language learning can seem quite daunting (especially at the beginning of one’s journey), but if you commit yourself to the process, immerse yourself in the various cultural, linguistic, and literary wonders that the Spanish language has to offer, it is a journey that is truly rewarding. What’s more, it’s a reward that can be enjoyed throughout one’s life - as we are never finished learning languages, and thus always able to savor the feeling of learning something new.

More coming soon!