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Monday, December 05, 2011

USI education provided a world of experience

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Monika Wathen
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Monika Wathen of Indianapolis will graduate from the University of Southern Indiana having traveled to Argentina, China, and the Dominican Republic, and having learned three languages.

When Wathen entered USI, she didn't anticipate where her undergraduate career would take her. "I just imagined I'd be a regular student, going to class and back to my residence hall, and going home during the weekends and breaks," she said. "I didn't think I'd meet as many people as I have, or go out of the country. I've made friends from all over the world."

Wathen graduates on Saturday with a bachelorâ▚¬â–žÂ¢s degree in psychology and Spanish.

She became interested in international culture as a USI freshman, when she was placed in the Global Community Living-Learning Community. "My roommate was from Italy, and every Wednesday we had multicultural programming," she said. "I went to an information session on study abroad and got excited about that."

Learning languages has given her the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their cultures. "It allows you to communicate with people you wouldn't have met otherwise," she said.

In fall 2009, she studied in Argentina. "Everything was in Spanish there. My host mom didn't speak English, it was straight Spanish."

She saved money for the trip to China in fall 2010 by working in a restaurant where her co-workers primarily spoke Spanish, allowing her to practice speaking the language. "It's just like English for me now. It just flows right out."

She was able to travel to China with the help of a $3,500 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. After a 10-day orientation period in Beijing, she attended Sichuan University in Chengdu. All of her courses but one were in Chinese. "I didn't know any Chinese. I couldn't even say hello. It was difficult, but it was awesome."

She was in China for six months, taking four classes a day: Comprehensive Chinese, Listening Chinese, Traditional Chinese Characters, and the English course on environmental issues in China.

At first, she admits, she had no idea what was going on in her classes. "But a lot of the students couldn't understand. There were students from Sweden, India, and Germany. It was awesome meeting people there from all over the world."

She tutored Chinese students in English, while they tutored her in Chinese. She also taught English to Chinese elementary school students once a week.

By her second month in China, she knew enough Chinese "to get around town," and by the end of her time there, she could communicate with her Chinese peers and write characters. "That's my favorite thing to do, write Chinese characters," she said.

Returning to USI in spring 2011, she took 21 credit hours including Advanced Chinese and Beginning Arabic. This fall she took Beginning Arabic II. "Arabic is a lot harder than Chinese. There are sounds that are in the throat that are hard to pronounce. If Spanish is a one (on a difficulty scale), Chinese is a six and Arabic is a 10."

In summer 2011, she used an Endeavor Award to do psychological research on the effect of racism on self-oppression in Santiago, Dominican Republic, with Dr. Manuel Apodaca-Valdez, assistant professor of Spanish. She will return to USI in April to present her research at the Endeavor Symposium.

After graduation, Wathen plans to move to San Francisco, California, and work for Marriott. "San Francisco has big Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish-speaking populations. I went there and fell in love with the city." Eventually she would like to get a Ph.D. in social psychology and work in a counseling or rehabilitation program.

Wathen served as president of Activities Programming Board (APB), vice president of International Club, College of Liberal Arts representative to the Student Government Association (SGA), and secretary of Bodies of Christ Ministries, a student organization. She was a member of the Spanish Club and Latinos Unidos and served as a study abroad ambassador.

The daughter of Walter and Georgia Wathen of Indianapolis, Wathen is a graduate of Arsenal Technical High School.



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