Lauren Wright: French, Spanish, and the Environment

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Encompassed in the Department of French, Hispanic, and Italian Studies (FHIS), the Honors Program in Romance Studies allows students to explore multiple languages.  Although it is a relatively small program at UBC, fourth-year student Lauren Wright decided that it was the perfect fit for her.

“I came to UBC knowing that I wanted to study French and Spanish, but then I realized that I also wanted to focus on something related to the environment,” Lauren said. “The Romance Studies program offered me the option to study both languages while also completing a minor in Environment and Society.  It was my way of constructing a degree that covered all of my interests.”

To make the most of her degree, Lauren participated in a Study Abroad Program in Ecuador, where she took two classes and spent six weeks with a homestay family.  She then went on a year long exchange to Paris, France.  Through these experiences she was able to immerse herself in both Spanish and French language and culture.

“Going abroad is critical if you study languages in order to improve your fluency and accent,” said Lauren.  “It’s also important to learn about culture.  When I came back from Paris, I could relate course material back to the streets, buildings, and galleries I had visited.  In Ecuador, I was able to listen to people give their perspectives on cultural interactions between Latin American countries, which is a huge part of literature from that area of the world.  Being in that setting gives you the ability to see a different angle on the things you are learning.”

Besides her interest in romance languages, Lauren also has a passion for the environment, and it is always on her mind.  She got involved with many initiatives related to the environment at UBC to enhance her minor.  Lauren grew particularly close to the Pacific Spirit Park Society and the UBC Farm, which she has been involved with for the past 6 years.

“I started by harvesting and working as a cashier at the market. Then I began leading tours, giving soil demonstrations and discussing the importance of bees,” Lauren remarked. “I felt like I might be underqualified, but UBC Farm welcomed the different perspective that I brought as a Romance studies major.  Some of the big issues, such as food security and forming an intimate connection with our natural world, are very interconnected with what I study.”

In the fall Lauren will pursue a Bachelor of Education at UBC.  She hopes to teach high school students in French immersion and incorporate environmental studies into her daily life, perhaps by running an environment club.  In the meantime, she is working for the YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange Program with sixteen and seventeen-year-olds from Quebec to gain experience working with youth.

To Lauren, the most important thing to consider when choosing a degree is what you want to do with it.

“I chose to study French and Spanish, which may not immediately seem practical to everyone,” said Lauren. “However, I knew that I wanted to apply it to teaching after I graduated, so it was the best choice for me.”

Article by Courtney Loftus

April 2014