By Hannah Lewry

Students often wonder how their academic studies will translate to the “real world” when they embark on their post-collegiate career journeys. But UC Santa Barbara student Kaili Emery didn’t wait until graduating to answer this question.  

Photo courtesy of Kaili Emery.

Photo courtesy of Kaili Emery.

Emery, who is majoring in Global Studies, decided to take off the fall quarter of her junior year to pursue an internship in international marketing in Medellín, Colombia. She decided on Colombia because she wanted something to maximize the traditional study abroad experience. It helped that her older brother, and UCSB alum, was working and living in Medellín at the time. She says that living in Colombia expanded her knowledge of culture and communication far beyond the textbooks.

I sat down with Emery to learn a little more about her life there, and to get her perspective on how her education in languages and cultures at UCSB influenced her experience.

Q: So…Colombia. Can you tell us a little bit about what you did while you were there?

A: My internship was at a technology start-up company called Interacpedia. They are an educational platform that connects university students to companies in Colombia and internationally. I did international marketing for them. This entailed a lot of outreach work to universities and companies in the US. I connected them with Colombian university students and American university students and companies all over the world so that they could collaborate on different projects.

Q: What was that experience like for you coming from student life at UCSB?

A: Being a UCSB student and going to Colombia was definitely a culture shock. My life at UCSB is very sheltered and consistent. I know what to expect and I have all of my resources right here for me. I know I go to an amazing school and get a great education. When I was placed into a completely different environment and culture, and having to deal with language as well, it was difficult to adjust. I think this made me appreciate UCSB even more and my life here.

Photo courtesy of Kaili Emery.

Photo courtesy of Kaili Emery.

Q: Was your choice to live and intern in Colombia influenced by any particular course or academic experience you had at UCSB?

A: I took a Summer Session course going into my sophomore year. In this class, [History of Latin America], we learned a lot about the conflict that happened in Central and South America during the Cold War. So that definitely peaked my interest in the region and wanting to study abroad there. And then for my Global Studies major, my primary language is Spanish. That also influenced wanting to go to a Spanish speaking country. Instead of Spain, a common education abroad route, I chose South America.

Q: How does a language class at UCSB compare to actually immersing oneself in the society where that language is the native tongue? In other words, were you able to translate academics into the real world?

A: I think that it's really different taking a language class here versus actually living in a country, because it's more of a lived experience obviously. Taking a language class here is heavily grammatical. Also, factoring in the amount that you're actually speaking in a classroom is pretty small compared to having to navigate a city, or an entire country, in another language. It really is necessary to speak Spanish in order to live in Colombia, so I don’t think I could have gone without the basic knowledge academic beforehand.

Q: After taking a break from traditional education, how was the transition back to UCSB? Do you feel the experience brought a new perspective to your education?

Photo courtesy of Kaili Emery.

Photo courtesy of Kaili Emery.

A: I think that it definitely brought me a new perspective on education and made me appreciate going to a university like UCSB - one of the best in the world. I also think that I appreciate the structure more now of being a student. I am more grateful for these platforms to be able to gain knowledge and take interesting classes taught by incredible professors.

Q: You are now starting to take courses in Portuguese. Can you tell a little more about why you decided to add an additional language?

A: I don't think that the Spanish language classes here are really designed for you to become fluent in that language. But you definitely develop a huge grammar base in classes here. I just wanted to have a basic knowledge of another language to be able to navigate Brazil or Portugal if I am ever able to go. These countries have less tourism so they tend to speak less English, which is why it is essential to know the language.

Q: Are you planning on traveling or living in a Portuguese speaking countries after you take courses in the language?

A: I think that a big reason I am motivated to take language is because I want to travel to that country. Portuguese is spoken in quite a few countries across the world. I'd love to go to both Brazil and Portugal, and so that's really what motivated me to take it.

Hannah Lewry is a third-year Communication student at UC Santa Barbara, minoring in Professional Writing.