Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Undergraduate Spotlight: Kathryn Wilk

Thu, February 7, 2019
Undergraduate Spotlight: Kathryn Wilk

Hi, I'm Kathryn Wilk. I'm a History and Iberian and Latin American Languages and Cultures double major with a minor in Business Foundations. I am a part of the Liberal Arts Honors program at UT and plan to graduate in May 2020. Since my freshman year, I have tried to explore this campus and community as much as possible. I enjoy adventuring throughout Austin and taking advantage of all of the beautiful nature here. I love to hike, paddle board, play sand volleyball, and just get outside. I also love a good trip to the movies and spending quality time with amazing friends that I have met during my time at UT.


Why did you decide to major in our department?


I decided to major in Spanish because I have always loved learning and speaking the language. I am not a native speaker, but since high school, I have always really enjoyed and excelled in my Spanish classes. I decided it would be a great complement to my history degree and help me in any career that I go into. I believe that learning another language and familiarizing yourself with cultures that are not your own, will help you succeed in your personal and professional life, so I have really enjoyed my time as a Spanish major and think it is very worthwhile.


What was your favorite class (or classes!) and why?



My favorite classes have been "Colonial Cultures in Contact (Latin America)" and "Business in Hispanic Life and Culture." These have been my favorite classes because they taught me very practical skills and different ways to utilize Spanish. In "Colonial Cultures in Contact (Latin America)" with Dr. Kelly McDonough, we worked throughout the semester on a hands-on research project that culminated to a final presentation. I learned to evaluate and analyze primary sources and became much more comfortable speaking and presenting in Spanish. Currently, I am enrolled in "Business in Hispanic Life and Culture," and I really enjoy it because it pairs so well with my Business minor. Professor Kelm teaches us the foundations of business in Spanish and how Latin American businesses may differ from each other and differ from the United States. Now, I understand these principals in Spanish and English, which enables me to use them in a much broader environment. The vocabulary and concepts that I have learned from both of these classes will be invaluable in the future.


What is the most important/interesting thing you learned through your coursework in our department?


The most important thing that I have learned is that to get better at a language, you need to practice! My high school courses gave me a thorough background in grammar and writing, but my college courses have enabled me to practice speaking much more, and this has been what dramatically improved my language skills.


What have you learned about yourself through coursework in our department?


I have found a passion for a culture different from my own! I always knew that I liked speaking Spanish, but my coursework has taught me that this language goes hand in hand with its culture, and I'm so passionate about both of these elements.


What are some of the skills or abilities you have learned through your coursework in our department?


In this department, I have learned humility and how to work together. At first, I was very intimidated by how many native speakers were in my classes. I felt that my speaking and understanding could not measure up to theirs. However, I learned that the students and the faculty in this department only want to help you. In almost all of my classes, I have had friends that are native speakers help me with my writing or politely correct me when I misspeak. I really appreciate when they correct me because I only want to get better. In addition, the courses in this department have a lot of group projects. So, I have learned how to work well in a group, even when the skill levels of the people might be vastly different. Sometimes, I have the best grammar and writing skills of the group, but I may not be the strongest presenter, or vice versa. This department has taught me to play to my strengths, learn from my peers, and work together in a helpful and collaborative environment.


In what way(s) will the knowledge and skills you have cultivated through your coursework in our department help you in your personal and professional life after graduation?


As I've explained, I think that the knowledge and skills that I have cultivated through my coursework will help me throughout my entire life in my personal and professional endeavors. I believe that knowledge of another language and culture will help me to have a fuller, more adventurous personal life and a professional life with many more opportunities.


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