Student Profile: Christa Giesecke ’14
April 21, 2014
Christa Giesecke ’14
Majors: Foreign Languages, International Affairs
Hometown: I moved around a lot growing up. The last place I lived before starting at Lewis & Clark was Thessaloniki, Greece.
Can you describe your Fulbright award, where you will be traveling, and what you’ll be doing while you’re there?
I will be working as an English teaching assistant alongside an English professor at a federal university in Brazil from March through November 2015. My proposed side project involves working with Brazilian girls to inspire them through running. I’m quite impressed with the success Girls on the Run and other organizations have had in the United States, and I am frustrated by the general lack of acceptance of female athleticism in much of South America.
What drew you to studying a foreign language? What excites you about the idea of teaching English in the country you have been placed?
I learned my first second language out of necessity when my family moved from the United States to Germany while I was in elementary school. It was not until later that I realized how valuable this skill was and that it allowed me to connect with a much greater percentage of the world’s population. In high school I became passionate about Spanish and had phenomenal teachers who helped me learn quite a lot in a relatively little amount of time. When we moved to Greece, I continued improving my Spanish at the same time I was socially immersed in Greek, which occasionally caused some confusion.
I was inspired by my first-year roommate and close friend Maia Erickson ’15—who had been a Rotary student in Brazil—to study Portuguese while I was abroad in Argentina. I fell in love instantly and knew that I would love to spend time in Brazil if ever given the opportunity. Everything excites me about the chance to teach in Brazil; I have loved being a Student Academic Affairs Board (SAAB) tutor and would love to try out teaching in a more formal context. Also, I want to dedicate my life to making connections and building bridges internationally and see this as a great opportunity to do so, as I will be representing the United States while abroad. I also love the easygoing nature of Brazilian culture and the focus on people.
Have you participated in any study abroad trips during your time at Lewis & Clark? If so, what was that experience like?
In the second semester of my second year at Lewis & Clark, I spent five months living in Argentina. I stayed with an elderly Argentine couple and took general education (and Portuguese!) classes alongside regularly enrolled students at Universidad de Belgrano.
Buenos Aires is beautiful, complex, and confusing. I had never before lived in the midst of a big city and I was exposed to both good and bad aspects. Before arriving, I had a very stereotypical view of Argentina with gauchos and maté drinking and tango, and I was surprised by the high degree of globalization that I observed everywhere. I was shocked that our apartment was only a few blocks away from Buenos Aires’ main Chinatown, and to see French and Spanish grocery stores, Carrefour and Día, located on nearly every other block. I travelled often, visiting Chile, Uruguay, and many other places in northern and western Argentina. I met some of the most amazing people in the hostels of tiny mountain towns.
How do you think your Lewis & Clark education has contributed to you seeing yourself as a citizen in a global community?
I love that Lewis & Clark students are always quick to consider the implications that western actions might have around the world. Very often in international affairs classes, students can speak about specific countries with authority from having lived in them. I am friendly with many international students and students who have studied abroad, I and realized recently that it is a common occurrence for me to greet people from 5+ countries and speak 3+ languages all before my 9 a.m. class. For me, being a Lewis & Clark student continually reminds me of the power of connections and how small the world is.
What are your plans for the future, and how do you think your Fulbright experience will figure in those plans?
I would love to work in a field that allows me to promote language education, intercultural understanding, and human rights. I am particularly interested in working to protect immigrant and refugee rights in some way, whether domestically or outside of the United States. I think my Fulbright experience will give me a much better idea of whether I would want to permanently pursue teaching. If I love it, I might pursue a master’s degree in Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Regardless of what I do, I want to travel and have the opportunity to use my language skills in a practical and helpful way.
Any advice to share with other Lewis & Clark students applying for similar awards in the future?
My advice to future students would be to take chances—go places you wouldn’t normally, talk with people you would be afraid to, apply for anything and everything that seems interesting to you. Professors and students alike here are so willing to share their experiences, so be ready to listen and gain from them. Don’t give up. Lewis & Clark is a very safe environment for exploration.