Obies Using Languages: Laura Weiss ’13{0}

Laura Weiss is a 2013 graduate of Oberlin with a BA in Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature. She is currently an intern at a Latina women’s health organization and working in a Mexican restaurant – using Spanish any way she can.

I was a Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature major at Oberlin – and I can’t believe it’s already been almost a year since I graduated! It’s been a whirlwind, but I can’t imagine my life today if it weren’t for my studies of the Spanish language, literature, history and politics at Oberlin. It all started during a Winter Term project my sophomore year at Oberlin. Until then, I had been somewhat half-heartedly studying Spanish, more because it felt important than that I actually felt intrinsically motivated by it. I decided I dedicate part of a Winter Term to improving my Spanish because I felt unprepared for 300-level courses. With the help of Barbara Sawhill, I was able to arrange a project where I not only selected some novels and films to read in Spanish, but was also able to Skype chat twice a week with a former Hispanic Studies department TA, Carlos Caceres, who teaches at the Universidad de Chile in Valparaíso. Something about art and literature in Latin America and Spain seemed to capture something that had always eluded me in my studies of literature in English, and from there it was basically inevitable that I would change my major to Spanish.

After studying translation, film and academic writing during a semester abroad in Salamanca, Spain, I came back ready to take on upper-level literature classes and eventually completed my Hispanic Studies thesis on Cien años de soledad. I also took a summer Hispanic Literature course at UC Berkeley during the summer of 2012, which was a great experience. I spent a long time trying to figure out how I could continue my studies of Latin America after graduating, and I was so inspired by my class on Rayuela with Claire Solomon that I decided to move to Argentina after graduating, alone and with no job prospects. I got an online TEFL certificate and was able to find a job teaching adult English learners 1:1 in Buenos Aires. Though living on my own was difficult, I did have the opportunity to immerse myself more in Spanish through living with Argentine roommates and interning at a human rights NGO, where I used some of the skills I had learned in Azita Osanloo’s translation workshop.

Now that I’m back in the US, living in New York City, I am pursuing jobs related to Latin American policy, international relations and human rights. I currently intern at a Latina women’s health organization and work in a Mexican restaurant – using Spanish any way I can while I seek out my eventual dream job! I’m also planning my next foray abroad, and I am a finalist for an international development fellowship, Princeton in Latin America, for the 2015 school year. I am planning to go to grad school for International Relations or Latin American Studies in the next few years. Basically, thanks to that Winter Term project, I was so inspired and moved that Spanish and Latin American studies became an irrevocable part of who I am and the journey I plan to take in life.