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 Laura Bachand, Portuguese School Assistant Director, at lbachand@middlebury.edu.  

Portuguese student Anne Briggs

Anne Briggs

Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota
Program: 7-week Immersion
Current: University of Minnesota, Ethnomusicology

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

As a graduate student in Ethnomusicology studying lusophone music, I needed to quickly achieve a high level of language proficiency in order to conduct archival research in Portuguese. Middlebury came highly recommended to me as the best place to do that!  I was surprised at how quickly I became comfortable in communication solely in Portuguese!

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

Immediately after my 7-weeks in Middlebury, I traveled to Portugal to conduct fieldwork. The language and cultural competencies I acquired while in Vermont provided me with invaluable skills to navigate libraries, archives, and daily interactions almost exclusively in Portuguese. I went from basic language skills before the program to easily communicating with native speakers in a variety of settings while in Portugal.

What advice would you give someone wanting to attend the School of Portuguese?

7-weeks can seem like a daunting amount of time to immerse yourself in a new or unfamiliar language, but the program is designed to make sure you not only learn the language, but also enjoy yourself while you do it.

Portuguese student Kacie Gastanaga

Kacie Gastanaga

Hometown: Fruitland, Idaho
Program: 7-week Immersion
Current: University of Kentucky, Hispanic Studies

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

I wanted to be able to communicate in a romance language that complemented my Spanish, and Portuguese and Brazilian culture fascinate me! I was very surprised by how much I learned in such a short time.

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

I went from novice to an intermediate high speaker of Portuguese in just seven weeks. I am continuing to practice Portuguese by consuming tons of media in Portuguese, reading, speaking with Brazilian friends, and keeping in touch with friends from Middlebury. I plan to continue to study Portuguese and hope to one day be able to teach Portuguese along with Spanish.

What advice would you give someone wanting to attend the School of Portuguese?

I do not think there could have been a better way for me to learn to speak Portuguese than Middlebury. I am constantly amazed when I think about how much I know about Brazilian culture, history and language, and that of the entire Lusophone world, during just one summer. I had a wonderful time at Middlebury and wish all language lovers had the experience to learn the Middlebury way.

Portuguese student Peter Simpson

Peter Simpson

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Program: 7-week Immersion
Current: Brown University, History (with a focus on Africa) and Africana Studies

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

I am interested in learning about how colonization impacted the education of students in primary and secondary schools in Angola. Gaining fluency in Portuguese is essential for me to conduct future research, and the Middlebury Portuguese School provided me with this opportunity. I was able to immerse myself in the language and make rapid gains in speaking and writing Portuguese.

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

I was surprised by my ability to see improvement and growth each week. Each time I listened into conversations or started conversations, I was able to go a bit farther, use more precise vocabulary and describe what I wanted to say more clearly.  Following the program, I was grateful by how much I could say and express and convey to others.

What advice would you give someone wanting to attend the School of Portuguese?

I highly recommend going to Middlebury even if you are a bit nervous. You will receive tremendous support and confidence from other student and faculty at your school.

Mary Sturgis

Mary Sturgis

Hometown: Shreveport, Louisiana
Program: 7-week Immersion
Current: Georgetown University, Master of Science in Foreign Service

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

I had studied at the Middlebury French School in 2014 and knew that there was no better place to study a language. The immersion environment at Middlebury not only accelerates your language learning but also gives you the cultural competencies to use your skills confidently with native speakers long after the program ends. 

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

At about week three, I realized I was forming sentences and using vocabulary that I hadn't studied from my textbook. Instead, I had absorbed what my peers were learning. Because of the immersion environment, I wasn't limited to what my professor had taught me to say, but by how willing I was to take risks and try to imitate those around me. Now that I've left the Portuguese school, I find myself thinking "where did I learn that word?" or "I'm not sure why you say it that way, but I know it's correct." It's an amazing feeling and speaks to the power of the Language Pledge to go beyond the classroom: it allows you to truly internalize the language.

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

I had never learned Portuguese before but knew that learning the language was the right next step for me, professionally and personally. When I decided it was time to learn Portuguese, I knew that I wanted a program that was tailored to the specific needs of Spanish speakers. I wasn't disappointed! Over the course of the summer, I went from no Portuguese to Advanced-Low Portuguese in 7 weeks because of the dedication of my professors and peers in and outside of the classroom. As a student and future practitioner of International Relations, the diplomats, writers, and professionals who came to teach at Middlebury as guest professors were exceptional resources for me and allowed me to develop sector-specific vocabulary.

What advice would you give someone wanting to attend the School of Portuguese?

Be open to taking risks! Everyone at the language schools wants you to succeed. Lean into your limitations and push back when you think you can't do something. Your brain is wired to communicate. Give it a chance to adapt to your new environment! Pretty soon, it'll feel more like fun than hard work.