Spanish & Portuguese Month

For the month of April we will be highlighting our Spanish & Portuguese department with stories from students’ travels and experiences learning these languages at KU!

A comprehensive undergraduate program in Spanish language, literature and culture for a BA  is offered currently with over 100 students declared. There is also a minor option  and a Portuguese Language, Brazilian Literature, and Cultural Studies minor.   In connection with those, the department sponsors semester programs in Salamanca, Spain, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, with opportunities to complete academic requirements. For students seeking to further their education, they have a competitive graduate programs for a M.A. or Ph.D. The department offers flexibility in the choice of fields, which are defined both by traditional geographical and chronological parameters, and by thematic topics

Did you know? 

  • The Portuguese Empire was actually the first global empire in history! In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed, which essentially gave Portugal the eastern half of the “New Word”, including Brazil, Africa, and Asia.
  • Over 236 million people world-wide are native Portuguese speakers. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Principe, Sao Tome, and Equatorial Guinea.
  • Portugal is one of the best places to surf and is know for 364 days of surf!
  • Christopher Columbus sailed under the Spanish monarchy but was actually Italian.
  • Spanish is the official language of 22 countries.
  • Chile is one of the few countries on earth that has a government-supported UFO research organization.
  • Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate, which is one of the highest in the world.
  • Brazil became the first South American country to accept women into its armed forces, in the 1980s.
  • About 60% of the Amazon lies in Brazil. The Amazon rain forest is the world’s largest, containing one fifth of the world’s freshwater reserves and producing one third of the earth’s oxygen.

Niloufar Shamloo

IMG_1099.jpgNiloufar Shamloo came to KU to study petroleum engineering, but she graduated in May 2015 with a B.A. in French Literature. A love for authors like Camus and Sartre led her to make room in her schedule to study foreign language so she could read her favorites in their original tongues. Classes in German and French inspired her so much that she dropped her engineering courses to major in French.

Thanks to encouragement from her professors, Niloufar IMG_4814.JPGstudied abroad in France twice as an undergrad — once in Paris and once in Angers. Her trip to Angers, in particular,
drove home the importance of learning a new language.

“While I was in Angers, there were many situations were people did not speak English, and speaking French was my only choice,” she said. “My host mom, for example, did not speak a word of English so we communicated in French. Also, even if the people do speak English, it is polite to try to speak the language of the country that you are in!”                 img_1368

Originally from Iran, Niloufar began learning English when she was just 7 years old. Moving to the U.S. at the age of 15 helped her see that learning a new language went beyond just grammar and vocabulary. “By learning a new language, you learn about another country’s culture, history, geography, foods, and customs!”

Niloufar is in France teaching English through the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). She plans to return in fall 2016 to earn her master’s in French Literature.



Robbie Gordy

Gordy AMS.jpgRobbie Gordy studied French in high school, and by the time he came to KU, he was eager to pick up another language. While he chose history as his major, he also took all the available undergrad classes in Italian language, literature and cultures. Now employed by Christie’s auction house in New York, Robbie finds his foreign languages to be indispensable.

“Language skills are a must-have in the art world,” he said. “The clientele is incredibly diverse, not to mention that many of the sources required in research are in a foreign language,”

After graduating from KU in 2009, Robbie went on to earn his master’s in the History of Art from Courtauld Institute of Art in London in 2011. At Christie’s, he collaborates on the presentation and development of high-profile consignments and collections at auction. He is also a charity auctioneer, and raises millions of dollars each year at galas and benefits for organizations in New York and across the country.

“People wrongly assume that foreign language only makes a difference if you’re fluent,” he said. “In my work, things like phrases, cultural knowledge that comes in connection with learning a foreign language, and even the ability to simply translate the title of a work of art are incredibly helpful skills.”


French & Italian Month

In the month of February, we will be highlighting stories from students’ travels and experiences learning French & Italian through KU.

The Department of French & Italian offers three Bachelor of Arts degrees in French, French & Italian, and Italian; along with a minor in French and/or Italian. You can also delve deeper into French with the M.A. and the Ph.D. programs. They offer other programs as well, like the Francophone Studies Program and, coming soon, the Medieval Studies Certificate. And if you’re interested in French research our graduate students have a published journal, Chimères.

 Did you know?

  • The Tour de France, the world’s most famous cycling race, has been around for over one hundred years, beginning in 1903.
  • The French eat about 30,000 tonnes of snails in a year, most of them imported.
  • Louis XIX was the King of France for only 20 minutes.
  • France is the world’s most popular tourist destination.
  • Italy is said to have more master pieces per square mile than any other country.
  • The first Italian cookbook was published in 1474 by Bartolomeo Sicci.
  • At its height, the Roman Empire covered 2.3 million miles, two-thirds the United States.
  • Italy has the most volcanoes in Europe because they sit on a fault line. There have been 3 major eruptions in the past 100 years.

Check back throughout the month for more fun facts, student and alumni stories, and information about the department.

Mitchell Pruett

Mitchell PruettWhen asked about his favorite part about KU, Mitchell Pruett almost didn’t know where to start. The low cost of tuition and prolific programs that enabled him to graduate with a double major and a minor?  Studying abroad and completing an internship in Germany? Attending an alternative break in Detroit, conducting research, belonging to organizations ranging from student housing government to the tennis club? Check, check and check.

But Mitchell has no hesitation about his opinion on the German department.318711_10150900387461607_384797129_n.jpg

“Many of my favorite professors and instructors at KU were from the German department,” he said, “because of their engaging teaching style, dedication to students’ success, and genuine interest they take in students’ lives inside and outside of the German department. I was invited to at least two professors’ houses and have met GTAs for coffee and conversation at Stammtish, the weekly German-speaking group.”

Studying Latin in high school prompted Mitchell to major in German, sharpening his native command of English. “Learning German has dramatically improved my command of English because of the intensive grammar lessons embedded in the coursework,” he said. “This helps with professional and academic writing in English by improving complexity, variety, and precision of language.”

559105_10151104986608373_112966516_n.jpgMitchell completed his degree in May 2015 with a double major in Psychology and German Studies, and a minor in business, Mitchell reflected on how having small class sizes and networking opportunities paved the way for his success.
“Small class sizes allowed for heavy class participation, which helped to digest the material quickly,” he said. “Classes like Business German and the capstone course on Contemporary Germany give the German Studies major clout in a job search and opens students up to modern international affairs.”

535040_10150900389126607_1977827761_n.jpgAfter graduation, Mitchell headed to Madison, Wisconsin, as a project manager for Epic Systems, a software company. It only took one interview for him to land the job, but a host of support from his alma mater to get him there. “The faculty in the German department was incredibly helpful in the job application process,” he added, “volunteering to be references for applications and referring me to connections inside of companies who could tell me more about the companies’ corporate culture.”
Mitchell currently works at the Human Resource Management Help Desk as an Administrative Assistant and is applying for graduate programs in speech pathology.

Anna Allen

Anna Allen was drawn to German because of her ancestry, and she continued her studies of the German language after high school at the urging of her caring teacher, Mr. Strecker. She continued on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in German at KU.

Today, Anna lives in Hamburg, Germany and works as a Copywriter for TBWA/Global Shopper, an international Shopper Marketing agency with clients such as like Glaxo Smith Kline ‘s Sensodyne, Aquafresh, NiQuitin, and Physiogel. She puts her journalism and German degrees to good use daily, writing and creating ad campaigns for international markets.

Allen AMS.jpg

Before her career at TBWA/Global Shopper, Anna consulted at Airbus (formerly EADS) in Munich in 2013. “Being able to add that to my resume has been a game changer.”  Anna’s expert knowledge of the German language and culture allowed enabled her to work this powerful, international organization only a year after graduation. This has given her the edge that ultimately led to her current position in Hamburg.

“Knowledge of German has given me opportunities in positions I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I have lived and worked in two of Germany’s biggest cities and have met people from all over the world in my field by the age of 25. And this is just the beginning.”

Josh Lodoly

When Cerner Corporation hired 500 new employees in Germany, they looked to Josh Lodoly for help. A B.A. in Business Administration and a minor in German Studies made him the perfect candidate to help with what Josh calls “anything and everything German-related.”
Josh’s work inIMG_0794.JPG the HR Service Center at Cerner puts him in regular contact with Cerner associates all over the world, including the ones in Germany.

“Studying German has prepared me incredibly well for my current job, since I handle German translations daily,” Josh said. “The business German courses (Deutsch für den Beruf and The German Business Environment) with Mr. Morrison have been the most helpful for my current role. I became familiar with business etiquette, proper email format, and was exposed to vocabulary used in a business environment.”

A high school teacher with a passion for German ignited Josh’s own interest in the language, and he was eager to continue learning as an undergrad.

“As I entered college, I wanted to continue learning the language, as well as its culture and history,” he said. “Germany itself has such a vast history and yet, I knew very little about it. What better way to learn than by learning the language? German always stood out to me as a unique, yet useful language.”

Josh’s studies took him to Eutin, Germany, for a summer internship at the Sparkasse-Holstein bank, and even introduced him to new rappers, artists and films that he now counts among his favorites.

“I’ve greatly benefitted from learning German via music, film, text, and oral dialogue,” he said. “Each instructor offered new ways of learning German. If I could go back, I would complete my German major instead of just the minor.”

Morgan Kilgore

Kilgore AMS.jpgFor KU graduate Morgan Kilgore, deciding where to go for his undergrad was a no-brainer. “I grew up a KU fan and KU was my dream school from the beginning,
he said. “My great grandpa used to drive the bus for KU athletic teams and I grew up on stories of Wilt Chamberlain, Phog Allen, and Don Fambrough. Not only that, but the tradition and history of KU are second to none. From the Rock Chalk Chant to the walk through the campanile, KU is steeped in tradition and that really appealed to me.”

A 2014 graduate, Morgan holds a B.A. in Global and International Studies, with minors in German and Public Policy. Now in law school, Morgan hustles toward a new dream — to work internationally, particularly in Germany. Visiting the country while he was in high school left an impression on him that he’s never been able to shake, and like his decision to attend KU, adding a German minor to his studies was second nature.

“I knew that Germany had a robust economy and I wanted to live there,” Morgan said. “I figured that learning German would be an integral part of achieving that goal.”

Tradition may have led him to KU, but tight-knit departments like Germanic Languages and Literatures are what made him stay. Small class sizes helped him focus his studies, and he credits that with the grasp of the language even today.

“It’s really comforting to walk into a class on the first day of the semester and see so many familiar faces that you either had a class with previously or lifelong friends that you made while studying abroad.”

Morgan will spend the summer working at a business litigation firm in Kansas City, and while he hasn’t yet had a chance to put his expertise in German to work, it’s already made inroads for him as he pursues his J.D.

“I truly believe that my knowledge of the German language made a significant impact in the quality and number of law schools that I was admitted to,” Morgan said. “Without it, I would not have received the substantial scholarship that I did, and I would not have stood out as well as I did as a candidate.”

Keyu Wu

Wu AMS.jpg

As a child growing up in China, Keyu Wu started learning English in the third grade. He and his friends didn’t think much of it – it was just another course they had to take. All that changed when Keyu came to the U.S. as a high school exchange student. He spoke English well enough to get through daily conversations, but the longer he stayed, the more his English skills progressed, and the better he was able to communicate with others. The experience awakened in him what he described as an “exquisite feeling,” saying that language was the key that unlocked so many possibilities for him.

Unable to control his desire to explore the world beyond the borders of his own country, Keyu enrolled at KU and studied abroad at the University of Regensburg in Germany. The thrill he experienced as a high school exchange student was rekindled as he explored Europe. Without hesitating, he picked up German as a minor, adding it to his Mechanical Engineering degree in July 2014. He’s now a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Stuttgart, where he also continues to study German.

“I was able to experience, relatively deeply, the cultures and lives of two different lands, plus my homeland. I feel I have seen and lived what normally takes three separate lives.”

“During my application period, KU attracted me with its academic reputation, hospitality from its international admissions office and a well-structured application and support system for international students,” he said. “Looking back, the University of Kansas provided me, along with other international students, a safe nest to reach out and learn about the American culture.”

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