by Kierstin Conaway, LACIS Graduate Project Assistant
Sarah Ketterhagen, a Class of 2019 alumna, pursued a double major in Spanish and LACIS. Throughout her undergraduate experience, she felt drawn to the field of bilingual education and made it her career goal. This career journey began when she took an English teaching position in Chile after graduation. Unfortunately, she had to return earlier than expected due to the pandemic, but the next door in her life path has already opened: a job as a Spanish teacher at a K-8 school. While teaching, she will simultaneously pursue a masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. LACIS wishes the best to Sarah as she continues her studies and enters the world of education!
When did you graduate from UW-Madison? What degree(s)?
I graduated from UW-Madison in May 2019 with a BA in Spanish and LACIS.
What are you currently doing/working on?
I was recently working as an English Teacher in Santiago, Chile, but I had to return home due to COVID-19. I moved to Chile in July 2019 after graduating from UW-Madison, and I taught as a private tutor, 1st grade teacher, and English language assistant. I am currently preparing for my next step: working as a Spanish teacher at a K-8 school in Madison.
Can you describe your experience in Chile in more detail? For instance, what was daily life like for you?
In Chile, I lived in the capital Santiago. I lived in a series of apartments near the center of the city and took the subway to work every day. I could see the skyline of the Andes mountains from my apartment balcony. Santiago is a beautiful city nestled in a valley between the Andes mountain range and Coastal Mountain Range, about 1.5 hours from the Pacific Ocean. My favorite part about living in Chile was exploring Santiago. I loved going on outings to the many parks, museums, and sidewalk cafes throughout the city.
What (or who) inspired you to enter the field of world language education?
I was inspired to pursue world language education after travelling throughout Latin America during my sophomore and junior years of undergrad. I fell in love with the Spanish language and Latin American culture, and I knew that I wanted to incorporate them into my future career. I started tutoring in a DLI (dual language instruction) second grade classroom in Madison and enjoyed it so much that I decided to change my majors to Spanish and LACIS. It was (and still is) my plan to complete my BA in Spanish/LACIS and then, pursue a teaching license in bilingual education.
What was your experience with LACIS?
LACIS was one of my two majors at UW-Madison. I had an overwhelmingly positive experience with LACIS from the first course I took—LACIS 260. I took it as an elective freshman year. The class content was completely new to me, and I was fascinated. After taking that introductory course, I decided to add LACIS to my pair of majors. I felt supported as a LACIS student in part due to its smaller size as a department. At schools the size of UW-Madison, it’s easy to feel a little lost. I never felt that way with LACIS. In this department, the staff and students form a close-knit community, which was so important to me. I felt comfortable coming into the office for advice on post-college plans, study abroad, and course selections.
How did LACIS prepare you to get to the place where you currently are?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without LACIS. I moved to Latin America after graduation and lived there for 9 months (returning to the US early due to COVID-19). I felt prepared for this move due to the knowledge I gained from LACIS. I not only had a strong command of the Spanish Language, but I also had a deep understanding of Latin American culture and history. This knowledge was crucial to my everyday life in Chile.
Do you have any advice for our current LACIS undergraduate students?
The best advice I can give is to seek out what aspect of LACIS you find most interesting and to pursue that. Whether its human rights, literature, or history—find something that sparks your interest and make that your focus. For me, that was Latin American human rights, specifically pertaining to the military dictatorships of Argentina and Chile. I took two classes to learn more about human rights in this era: one in conjunction with literature and the other with rock music. I also wrote a term paper for a Political Science course on this topic. LACIS is a broad discipline, and I find that it is best utilized to find your specific interest within the region. I suggest that LACIS students take introduction courses in each of these disciplines to determine what their focus will be.