Speaking with a student ambassador is a great way to get a previous student’s perspective on the Language Schools experience.

If you would like to connect with a student ambassador to ask questions, please contact Wendy Butler, School of Japanese Assistant Director, at japaneseschool@middlebury.edu.

Lauren Gassman is a ambassador for the Japanese Graduate Program.

Lauren Gassman

Hometown: Farmington Hills, Michigan
Program: Graduate Program
Current: Japanese Teacher, Cass Technical High School, Detroit, Michigan

What surprised you about your experience at the Middlebury Language Schools?

It is quite intense! As a full time teacher it is a lot to juggle. Having three 3-credit classes while working is stressful, but rewarding. Additionally, I was surprised with how tight-knit the community felt. It was such a joy to meet so many people wanting to learn Japanese and sharing my passion with them. 

Why did you choose to study at the Middlebury Language Schools?

Selfishly, I joined because the tuition was very affordable, and receiving scholarships was a big drive for me to join this program. It allowed me to stay in the profession that I love and pursue higher education! I chose to study here because I heard so many wonderful things about the immersion programs as well and I knew that even though the graduate program is new, it would give me a quality education. 

Please describe how your language skills improved due to your studies at Middlebury.

As a Japanese teacher, I have to stay on top of my language skills or I fear I will lose them. I was amazed at how much I picked up on more advanced-level Japanese language jargon required of the classes. I feel that because of this I am able to communicate at a more advanced level, and that is an absolute plus for someone like me, who is a non-native language teacher. 

Is there anything else that you would like to let a student know about your experience? For example, what is something that no one told you or you didn’t expect?

Every situation is going to be different, you need to be ready to be uncomfortable! You’re going to learn a lot more than you might expect, so it is important for you to take inventory of where you are and set specific goals of where you want to be. Time management for the master’s program is incredibly important (especially if you are working full time). You’re going to have a blast and learn a whole lot! 

What other language learning opportunities have you had? 

Aside from study abroad experiences through college, I’ve never had any language learning opportunities like the ones I have had at Middlebury. The extra curricular language chats were absolutely fantastic, I got to meet a bunch of students who were working in the 8-week immersion program who were either just starting out in their Japanese journeys or were far along like me! This allowed me to speak Japanese with people from various ranges of proficiency, help them when they needed it, and have conversations about many different topics. Speaking Japanese isn’t something that I’m able to do with anything other than my students, so it was wonderful to do!