During pre-orientation at Hamilton, Brenda Narvaez ’17 decided to learn another language, at first thinking about Italian. Then she pondered Arabic, which she’d always wanted to learn, as challenging as it might be. In a last-minute decision, she went with it.
“I thought, ‘OK, let’s see what happens.’ And I loved it. I didn’t think I was going to learn so much,’” she recalls.
As things turned out, Narvaez put together an interdisiplinary concentration that allowed her, in effect, to major in foreign languages, focusing on Arabic and Italian. (She’s also a women’s studies major.) As a rising sophomore, she could read and write Arabic and was learning its grammar. As a rising senior, she’d landed a summer internship in Amman, Jordan, working in legal aid. She studied Spanish in Madrid her junior year.
Narvaez says her Arabic teacher Mireille Koukjian both pushes and encourages students to learn more than they think they can. Narvaez’s advice to students mulling Arabic? Fear not.
“When I clicked on the button to take Arabic, it seemed very intimidating, and I didn’t think I was going to get very far. It’s important to know that it’s not as intimidating as it seems. If you apply yourself, you can definitely do it,” says Narvaez, who wants to become an international lawyer.