Ventanillas de Salud, Mexican Consulate, Washington, DC
After graduating from Tulane, Madison began a certificate program in Spanish Translation at American University. She notes that, when she used to tell people she was studying Spanish, the most frequent response was ‘Oh, you’d like to be a Spanish teacher?‘ As she had no intention of teaching, this program has demonstrated to her that her language skills acquired while at Tulane can be put to use outside of the classroom. She interned at the DC Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (OLA) in the Language Access and Advocacy department to complement her two semesters at American University. Now, she has landed a “dream” job working as the Coordinator of the Ventanillas de Salud, a health services program implemented through the Consular Section of the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, DC.
Why did you choose to major in Latin American Studies?
I remember the moment I decided to change my major to Latin American Studies. I was in Maureen Shea‘s Social Problems in Latin American Literature class. It was one of the first cultural classes I took that was conducted in Spanish. I fell in love with the idea of sitting in a room talking in Spanish about something other than grammar rules. We had just watched a documentary on Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo and I felt this passion brewing up in me. I realized my love for the Spanish language transcends the grammatical landscape and is actually embedded in the culture of a people. From then on I took a majority of my classes on social issues of Latin America (conducted in either Spanish or Portuguese to keep my foreign language desires satisfied!)
How has your background in LAST helped you since graduation?
Of course there‘s the language component. Being fluent in Spanish with a substantial amount of Portuguese was the only reason I was able to take part in my current translation program and internship when I first arrived in DC. However, it has proven to be even more fruitful in my current position with the Mexican Consulate. Truthfully, one of the main reasons they hired this “gringa” is because my language skills are top notch. I made sure to take a course load that would heavily immerse me in the Spanish language and now I feel right at home working from the Mexican Consulate as a white girl from New York surrounded by Mexicans, Bolivians, Guatemalans and Salvadorans.
I also have to give some thanks to the work I was required to do during the senior capstone. I chose my thesis based on personal interests and it has proven to be more useful than I expected. I focused on medicinal practices of the Amazonian indigenous population and who knew I would still be drawing from that knowledge today. I work in healthcare in the US but with people who come from a variety pack of healthcare cultures.
Understanding the differences in these practices not only inspired me to pursue this position in the first place, but also helps me realize how differently someone I deal with may approach their health practices. In the end, my capstone paper was just okay, but the research I put into it for months far supersedes the final product. Enjoying that journey has helped me build a stronger foundation for what I hope to continue pursuing.
In hindsight, what would you have done differently as a LAST major?
I think I was a little language crazy and chose most of my classes based on the fact that they were taught in either Spanish or Portuguese. Perhaps this took away from the opportunity to get the full interdisciplinary experience. But in the end, the language skills were my most successful accomplishment (along with surviving the senior capstone, of course!) Also, I would have attended more Pachangas!
Any words of wisdom for LAST undergraduates?
Enjoy what you‘re learning! Even the topics you aren‘t particularly thrilled about, keep the information bookmarked in your brain. You‘ll realize that, over time, each little anecdote from your courses is interrelated and can be applied in settings you never thought possible. Choose your capstone thesis based on your personal interests, not the ones you think you’re supposed to be researching. Focus your attention more on the journey of learning all about something incredible than on the final 25 pages you have to hand in. Overall, embrace this liberal arts undergraduate education. I changed my major from a very career-oriented major to LAST because I realized my undergraduate life was an opportunity to follow my current interests, not my potential ones. And I am oh so glad that I did!