Majoring in Linguistics to help transform the world into a better place for all

Is there something that makes your heart leap? Is there something that gets your blood pumping? Is there something you could do all day and be completely satisfied? For me, that something is language. Now, I don’t mean just the words and grammar of languages, but rather the communication, self-expression, and transformation that comes as a result of different languages. I was a shy child, so shy that I ran out of the room during the nativity play at my church because I was so nervous…and I was Mary!
I learned to find my voice as I grew. I learned to use words to express myself. I learned how powerful words can be. But my growth didn’t stop there. Soon I discovered that there were different languages that used different words to convey different concepts. I took Spanish classes in high school but wanted to dive deeper, so I completed an internship at a Mexican Bakery in my town. I also went on several service trips and even served as an interpreter during a few of those trips.
These experiences nourished my love for language and culture, and inspired my decision to double major as an undergraduate student – Spanish and Intercultural Studies. Upon graduation, I took a job at a nonprofit in Beijing, China, training Chinese English teachers. There my love of teaching blossomed. Now I’m about to start a graduate program in applied linguistics, which conveniently combines all my passions into one program.
Getting to this point in my academic career hasn’t been easy. Coming from a low-income family, I’ve learned to be content with very little. I’ve also learned to work very hard for the things that are important for me. Both of those lessons came in handy during my undergraduate studies. While I received a good deal of scholarship money, it wasn’t enough to pay for everything, so I learned how to sacrifice. I counted the opportunity costs and gave things up in order to pay for school. I also worked several jobs in order to graduate with no debt.
At my university, there were few Spanish-speakers, so I learned to overcome this obstacle to my language learning by searching the community and other resources for opportunities to love and serve others using my skills. I also taught myself Mandarin while I was in China in my spare time since I had such a deep desire to learn and communicate with those around me.
Just like everyone has some sort of passion, I believe everyone also has a dream. Graduating with this degree in applied linguistics will open innumerable doors to explore the world I have been living in. This degree means that I have worked hard enough to gain the opportunity to continue my learning and to share that learning with others, using language and teaching as tools of transformation. I’m beyond thrilled to start this applied linguistics program, developing into a trainer and communicator that helps transform the world into a better place for all.
We are proud to announce Laurel Dispenza is one of the current LatPro Scholarship finalists. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column) and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

DiversityJobs Editor


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  • Well said Laurel. We’re so proud of everything you have accomplished! Your so smart, talented, and driven to serve God. Your vision and actions to make the world a better place are inspiring.

  • During her study abroad a few years ago, Laurel showed me and my friend all around costa rica. That included helping us order food in spanish, helping us figure out accommodation, Tica Bus info, what to eat, and how to stay smart in San Jose. She also took us to Puerto Viejo, and rode with us all the way there and back to San Jose. Her knowledge of the language and culture was so impressive and her love for the people and language were obvious. We were there during the time when the Costa Rica national team was in the World Cup quarter finals and she took us out to see the celebration when they beat argentina. She was always up for any adventure and never was shy about practicing and learning the language. There probably isn’t a better person to deserve this scholarship, and my friend and I now call her an honarary Tico (I know it’s the male form, but I don’t know the female form).
    Laurel helped us to fall in love with costa rica, and I went back a second time without her and it wasn’t the same.

  • Laurel, its really great to have you as the teacher to share language and arts to kids. With the passion and love to culture communition, you could go further. Wish u get the scholarship and all the best!

  • Excellent writing Laurel. Your passion for languages shines brightly through your essay! I expect you will get this scholarship.

  • Laurel!! You are so talented and blessed with a mind for languages! I hope you get the scholarship!! You would be a gift to any organization or program. No matter what, God loves you and lead you to whatever is best!

  • What a wonderful person Laurel is! She was such an inspiring student at Lake James Christian Assembly!

  • I met Laurel in Costa Rica like 2 years ago, we’ve been friends since then, she talks spanish very well, she always trying to learn more. She is also very friendly and trustworthy.
    Is always willing to help people.
    I know she deserves this.

  • Laurel embodies passion for language, going out of her way to immerse herself in another culture and language by going abroad for months and years. But more than that, she has a passion to understand people. She definitely deserves this!

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