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Love of Languages

04/27/2011

With a love for foreign languages, Katie Bodnar '11 found that MCLA fueled her passion not only for learning, but for travel and the growing number of dialects she speaks.

From nearby Pittsfield, Mass., Bodnar (pictured above, in Italy with a new friend) is an interdisciplinary studies major concentrating on modern languages and history. In addition to speaking Spanish, French and Italian, during a 2008 trip to Korea to visit her mother's family, she studied Korean at Yonsei University.

Although not yet fluent, "I can read and write in Korean almost flawlessly," Bodnar said. "It's a phonetic alphabet so it's all based on sounds. A lot of the times in class I find myself writing my notes in Korean."

A teaching assistant and tutor for Spanish at MCLA for three semesters, the experience has been "highly rewarding," Bodnar said.

"I've been studying Spanish since I was in middle school, so I have a deep love and respect for the language. Having the opportunity to TA and tutor is great. I love helping people in this language because I know I can help them well."

This past spring break, Bodnar traveled to Italy as part of an MCLA travel course.

"I have a deep love for Spanish but Italian is slowly creeping its way to the top," she explained. "Although I've only had two semesters' worth of Italian, it feels like I've been studying for two years. I'm always reviewing it and practicing because it's such a fun language. In all my years of taking foreign languages, I've never had more fun than in those two semesters."

Bodnar also is the president of MCLA's Asian Club - a position she's held for the past two years. All students are welcome to join, she says, regardless of their ethnicity. Involved with the club since her freshman year, Bodnar says that while the Asian population on campus isn't large, it's "definitely growing."

"A lot of people think that only Asian people can be in the Asian club. But that's far from being true. Anyone can join and we try and encourage it," Bodnar said. "The partnership MCLA has with Hebei University in China is really helping. For the past four semesters we've had a somewhat large group of students from Hebei come here to study for either one semester or the whole academic year."

After graduation, she plans to teach English in China at Hebei University for as long as three years, before going to Korea to do the same - following in the footsteps of the MCLA professors she admires.

"Two of my favorite classes here were 'United States and World War II' with Dr. Ely Janis and my Senior Seminar with Dr. Rita Nnodim. I learned so much in that WWII class. Ely Janis is brilliant. Because of that class I cannot stop watching, reading and listening to anything and everything relating to WWII. He made the class interesting and challenging."

The Senior Seminar requires a 5,000- to 6,000-word essay, Nnodim suggested that she write about the Navajo Code Talkers.

"Normally, essays that big are horrible and annoying to write," Bodnar said. "[But] I have never had so much fun writing a paper. I learned so much by reading different stories and watching films about this group of people."

Also on her "favorites" list are Dr. Graziana Ramsden and Emilia Sciarra-Laos, her long-time Spanish and Italian professors.

"I've learned so much from them because they are amazing professors," Bodnar said. "I've had a lot of professors here, but these two are the most influential in my life. I will definitely keep in contact with them for many, many years."