Obies Using Language: Emily Wilkerson ’15

Emily Wilkerson is a member of the class of 2015 who is pursuing a double major in Comparative Literature and German Literature. She has studied Spanish, German, Swedish, and English at Oberlin and  spent her third year abroad in Germany with the Junior Year in Munich program at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

In middle school and high school I was lucky enough to take Spanish, Latin, and German classes. I loved being able to study multiple languages, so when I started my first year at Oberlin, I planned on continuing to study Spanish and German. Eventually this turned into a goal to be trilingual by the time I graduated and a comparative literature major – the perfect marriage of my love for literature and language learning.
During my sophomore year I decided to study abroad in Munich, Germany. I started Spanish as a sixth grader and German as a high school senior, so I figured spending a year in a German-speaking country rather than a Spanish-speaking one would make my language abilities more “even.” I spent that year using German in the classroom, on the train, in stores, in my student housing, and with my friends. It was often difficult or frustrating, but I can say with all honesty that my 10 months abroad were the best experience of my life. Now that I’m back, I’ve declared a second major in German literature and I’d guess that my German is actually better than my Spanish. I’m currently working on keeping both languages up through classes, self-study, German House events, and a capstone that combines the two languages.Additionally I’ve always been interested in going to Scandinavia, particularly to Sweden, and at one point, that came up during a conversation with Barbara Sawhill. Eventually she told me that the OCLC was offering a Beginning Swedish class taught by two heritage Swedish speakers who had recently returned from studying abroad in Stockholm. I immediately signed up. We met once a week and only had time to learn the most basic “travelers Swedish,” but that was all I needed when I traveled to Sweden during my year abroad. With my blonde hair and my ability to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “how much does it cost,” I was occasionally able to pass for a Swede in Stockholm. Just another benefit of learning a language at Oberlin.


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