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Language students describe the unique opportunities their major provides

University students majoring in languages bring personal experience to the program.
Image by Ava Weinreis
With an abundance of language programs, there is something for everyone.

For typical Bachelor of Arts students in the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts (CLA), completing language courses is required to graduate, but for students majoring in a language, it is much more than just a requirement.

The University offers 26 language programs, according to CLA’s website. Some of these include European language studies like French, German and Italian, while the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies program (AMES) allows students to study Arabic, Chinese, Hmong, Japanese and more. 

Harun Mousa, a third-year student majoring in geographical information systems and AMES with an emphasis on Arabic, said the language is vital to him in many ways. 

“I’ve always wanted to study the Arabic language. It is a crucial part of my life religiously and personally,” Mousa said. “Being Muslim, our holy book, the Quran, is in Arabic. It’s essential that I know what it means, and I can connect to it at that level.” 

When deciding to double major, Mousa said he saw the benefits of participating in both a scientific and a humanities program. 

“It’s best to know the best of both worlds, especially with languages,” Mousa said. “A language is very, very useful. Any skill you have, if you add a language on top of that, that means your job opportunities just explode.”   

Nicole Moberg, a first-year student majoring in linguistics and AMES with an emphasis in Arabic, said since she lived in Saudi Arabia for several years, she has wanted to continue studying the language. 

Moberg said Arabic is a “very logical language” and is interesting to learn because of its history and literary connections, which often are not discussed in the United States. 

Moberg added her major allows her to build on the Arabic she already learned and strengthen her relationships with the people she met while living in Saudi Arabia. 

“It also opened another window in my mind because I speak Spanish as well, and it was a much faster process to learn it,” Moberg said. “Having to learn Arabic has made my brain work, and it makes me think in different ways.” 

Rachel Runzheimer, a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish studies and bioproducts and biosystems engineering, is currently studying abroad in Argentina. While abroad, she said she has been able to put her language skills to the test. 

“Being abroad, I’ve seen how much it helps to be able to speak the language when you’re in a new place or communicating with people,” Runzheimer said. “I think also in the U.S., there’s a lot of Spanish speakers, which is kind of why I originally wanted to study the language to communicate with them as well.” 

Runzheimer added the Spanish studies program provides her with the ability to narrow her studies down to a niche because of its different tracks and focus areas, with linguistics being her focus area. 

“I feel like as I’ve been learning Spanish and improving Spanish, I’ve also really gotten a good grasp of the basics of linguistics. I get to study two things at once,” Runzheimer said.

Like Mousa, AMES second-year student Libby Nemitz said she chose to focus her studies on Chinese because she has a special connection to the language. Along with AMES, Nemitz is also majoring in global studies. 

“It’s kind of like a personal choice for me because I’m adopted from China, but I didn’t grow up speaking the language,” Nemitz said. “I wanted to learn, and also because learning Chinese has a lot of job opportunities, especially international relations, so it worked well together.” 

Language courses can be intense, but Nemitz said she utilizes campus resources and classmates to help practice outside class. As a student ambassador of the Chinese Flagship program, Nemitz encourages those interested to join the program. 

“My program is well-funded by federal dollars,” Nemitz said. “If anyone’s struggling to pay for college, learning the language and adding a language program can be a great opportunity.”

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