Meet the Scholars

Five Minutes with Ellen

College: Heidelberg University
International studies, Spanish, and German (triple major), communication (minor)
Year: Junior

What was it like transitioning from Chicago to a small liberal arts college in Ohio?
The first time I visited Heidelberg University (in the small town of Tiffin, Ohio), I fell in love with it. Everything was so close and the community was very welcoming. Heidelberg was also one of the few universities that offered me a significant amount of institutional aid. I am now in my third year at Heidelberg University. It has provided me with so many opportunities and I still love it as much as I did during my first visit, however it has not always been that way.

My first semester was not very good. I did not know anyone and as a minority student, I felt like an outsider. I am a very shy person, so I would always go to my room after class. But during the second semester of my first year, I joined a sorority, The Philalethean Society. Joining the sorority opened doors and changed my trajectory at Heidelberg. Since then I have held numerous positions in the student affairs and religious life offices and was presented with the Student Leader for Diversity Award for my interest in bringing different cultures together at Heidelberg. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel having attended a Model UN trip to San Francisco and serving as a translator on the U.S. border through the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project.

That is great to hear that you were able to make such a great personal transformation so quickly. You’re also currently participating in the American Junior Year at Heidelberg University – how has that been?
I am currently studying at Germany’s oldest university, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität (Universität Heidelberg), founded in 1386. The program is one of the oldest student exchange programs of its kind and more than 5,000 of the university’s 30,000 student are international.

I decided to study abroad in Heidelberg because it allowed me to work on my German. I am currently taking all of my classes in German with hopes to become fluent. I have been here for three months now and my German continues to improve (I can now communicate a bit with the locals). I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to Switzerland, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, and some cities surrounding Heidelberg. I really love it here.

That’s terrific! In addition to your global travel, you are also a triple major (side note: wow!!!) and hope to serve as an interpreter in the U.N. How did that come to be?
I had always wanted to be an occupational therapist or a special education instructor, but after volunteering on the border as a translator, that all changed. I am currently triple majoring in international studies, Spanish, and German with a minor in communication.

I love learning about different languages and cultures. As I continue to work on my German, I also want to learn French and Korean. It’s my dream to use my passion for cultures and languages to make a difference in the world – whether that be for the United Nations or a global company.

Sounds like you are well on your way! What about away from the classroom, how do you spend your time?
I enjoy traveling. This past weekend some friends and I went to Venice, Italy, for two days. I found it amazing how similar Italian is to Spanish. I was able to understand and ask some things using Spanish words to communicate with the Italians and they understood me most of the time. In addition, my Korean roommate is teaching me Korean and I am teaching her Spanish. Teaching someone about my language and culture makes me even prouder to be Mexican-American.

Thank you again Ellen for sharing your story. Now our customary final question, what piece of advice do you have for your fellow Scholars?
You have probably heard this, but it is important to go out and meet people and join as many clubs as you can. Being involved at your college opens doors that you never thought would be open to you. I know that getting involved on my campus opened many doors for me. Another recommendation would be to never be afraid to try new things and always be open to new opportunities.