Florida State University’s Modern Langauge Department isn’t the biggest or best in the nation, but it’s still pretty great. Whether you knew that you wanted to study a foreign language before you even applied to FSU or you discovered your love of language after you’d been here for a semester or two (or three or four), you’re privy to the interdepartmental secrets, inside jokes, and knowledge accumulated over the years. Here are the ten things every Foreign Language Major at FSU understands.
1. Entry-Level Courses Are the Worst
Everyone has to start somewhere – unless you took four years of AP Spanish in high school and are basically already fluent. In which case, congrats? But for the rest of us, entry-level language classes are a necessary evil. These 1000 level courses are always packed with non-major students who are just trying to get their foreign language credit requirements out of the way. You will inevitably be partnered up with one of these students and do all the work on the group project. Try not to cringe too visibly at their pronunciation. You’re still in Italian for Beginners, too, you know.
2. There Are “Easy” Languages and “Hard” Languages
If you’re majoring in Spanish or German, don’t complain to an Arabic student about your oral exam next Friday. Chances are, they won’t be very sympathetic. While it does take skill and dedication to learn any language, the truth is that some langauges require a lot more effort to achieve fluency or even conversational ability. Languages with a different alphabet, for example. Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, Russian. Learning the subjunctive in Spanish is no walk in the park, but at least you can make a full sentence at the end of your first semester. Mandarin learners are still doing their ABC’s.
3. FSU Is a Tobacco-Free Campus… Except for Right Outside Diffenbaugh
Like most colleges, FSU has taken a zero tolerance policy against tobacco on campus. But that doesn’t stop the crowds of Foreign Language Majors from gathering outside Diffenbaugh for a smoke. They either just got back from studying abroad in Europe or are wishing they had. Cigarettes are très continental, you know. Of course, the effect is somewhat spoiled by the fact that they’re smoking outside Diffenbaugh instead of in a Parisian alley, but what can you do? Just hold your breath and hurry past.
4. Speaking of Diffenbaugh, How ‘Bout That Hill?
Ah, yes. Diffenbaugh Hill. Making the steep climb up University Way to Diffenbaugh will make you feel like you’re in the Andes, or perhaps the Swiss Alps. All naive dreams you had about riding your bike blithely through campus die when you see DIF four times on your schedule. You’ll be able to recognize your fellow Language Majors by the size of their calves. Leg day, every day, am I right? Of course, there are some crazies who bike up Diffenbaugh Hill. They’re probably German Majors.
5. We’re All Eternally Jealous of Dodd Hall
In addition to the grueling climb, Diffenbaugh is far from the prettiest building on campus. That title goes to Diffenbaugh’s neighbor, Dodd Hall. Diffenbaugh’s old classrooms and dingy linoleum can’t compete with stained glass windows, high gabled ceilings, multi-paneled wooden doors, the whole works. Dodd Hall is basically Hogwarts, but not always in a good way. Elevators that only go to certain floors, hallways that don’t connect to anything, rooms that can only be accessed through other rooms. Dodd was built for Classics Majors, apparently by Classics Majors. At least you can always find your classroom in DIF.
6. Studying Abroad Is #Goals
FSU’s variety of campuses and exchange programs abroad is one of the best parts about being a Foreign Language Major at FSU. The fastest path to fluency is full immersion, so you’re willing to forefeit your tax return, sell your soul, or at least take out an extra loan for the opportunity. You know it’ll be worth the money. You’ll just have to convince your family that it’s totally safe to go to Russia for a semester. Really, the only risk is that you’ll love it so much you don’t want to come home.
7. The Downside to Studying Abroad
Yes, studying abroad is the highlight of your academic year, but not everything is rainbows and butterflies. Some of FSU’s prettier campuses attract a lot of non-major students who see studying abroad as a three month vacation. Valencia and Florence are two of the biggest magnets for this kind of student. You’ll be frustrated sharing a dorm with them when they wander in at 2am on a Tuesday. You’ll also be disappointed by how much English is spoken on and around campus. The whole point of studying abroad was to deepen your language skills through immersion. But a semester abroad is kind of like pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty damn good.
8. The Winthrop King Scholarship Is Cutthroat
Another downside to studying abroad is that FSU’s International Programs can be very expensive. Grants and scholarships go a long way toward relieving that financial burden. The most sought after scholarship for Foreign Language Majors at FSU is the Winthrop King. There’s only one recipient every year from each language, though, so the competition is fierce. You’ll spend weeks and weeks working on your essay before going up to the kind of spooky 4th floor in Diffenbaugh to finally submit your completed application. Expect to spend another two months in an agony of doubt, waiting to hear back from the decision committee. But if you win, $7500 is yours to put toward any FSU IP or foreign exchange your heart desires.
9. FSU’s Modern Langauge Faculty Are the Best
After you graduate from the 1000 and 2000 level classes, you’re going to start seeing the same professors over and over again, especially in the smaller departments. The class sizes will also start shrinking, meaning more one on one time with the prof. Almost all of the professors in FSU’s Modern Language Department are super cool, smart, and fun to hang around. You’ll find yourself stopping by to chat during office hours and don’t be surprised if you end up at their house sharing a bottle of wine with a few other students. Because you spend so much time with them in and out of class, you’ll cherish them as a mentor and a friend.
10. “So, What Are You Going to Do With That Degree…?”
Possibly the worst question you can ask a Foreign Language Major, but one that all of us have heard or will hear multiple times while at FSU. Whether it’s friends, family, or guidance counselors, the idea of a Foreign Language degree just seems to boggle the mind. You might have an idea of what you want to do. Maybe you want to go on to graduate school and get a Masters or Ph.D. so you can teach or do research. Or maybe you want to work as an ambassador or interpreter. Or maybe you have no idea what you want to do yet. You’ll make up something that sounds impressive whenever anyone asks the dreaded question, but in reality, you just love French. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can always teach English abroad.