LACIS’ Alum RJ Hayes to Enter the Peace Corps in Mozambique

By RJ Hayes, LACIS Alum, MA Candidate, Dept of Portuguese
So, as I sit here, finishing my last month of graduate school in the Portuguese MA program, and finishing my long checklist of tasks to accomplish to be cleared for the Peace Corps in Mozambique, I have to stop and think for a second about what got me to this point. I guess I should go back to Freshman year at UW-Madison, when I randomly decided to study Portuguese. I had no idea that the university offered so many languages, and with the help of the FIG programs, Portuguese caught my eye.
I started off struggling quite a bit to grasp the language, I wasn’t getting the grades I wanted, but eventually it finally clicked. My TAs (shoutout to Jackie, Francesca, and Jared) were so awesome, which really helped me get interested and involved. Anyway, with the help of LACIS and my advisor, Sarah Ripp, I applied for the FLAS scholarship to study Portuguese in Brazil. To my surprise, I was awarded the scholarship and spent my junior year of undergrad in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
At this point, there was no turning back. Portuguese and LACIS had become a vital part of my life, and I started to plan my future with these two aspects highly in mind. As I was finishing my LACIS degree in 2014, I decided that I wanted to narrow down the LACIS umbrella and focus on Portuguese literature and language, which brought me to the graduate program here at the UW, which was awesome because I could continue working with my professors (and I still saw the folks from the LACIS office at various events!).
RJ and his fellow Portuguese grad students
RJ and his fellow Portuguese grad students
Recently I was accepted to teach high school English in Mozambique for the Peace Corps. Portuguese is the official language in Mozambique, so I am pumped that I will be able to make connections with my students and community members right from the get-go. Although I have my ideas, I am unsure what to expect out of this upcoming experience, but it’s a similar feeling as when I decided to study Portuguese, or declare the LACIS major. You can just feel that you are taking positive steps in your life, getting you to where you aspire to be, while helping out others along the way. Thank you to LACIS and the Portuguese department for helping me through my UW-Madison journey and setting me up for my future endeavors.