SLLC Major is Putting All the Pieces Together

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Brandon Schatt poses with the other TAs of UNIV100 and Italian lecturer Stefania Amodeo.

French Major and UNIV100 TA, Brandon Schatt, encourages students to pursue their interests—then find careers where their interests intersect.

Brandon Schatt, a French Language and Literature junior with plans to study abroad in Nice, France, in fall 2014, has been studying French since the seventh grade. He first thought foreign languages might be worth pursuing when he realized, “A lot of people hated them and I didn’t.” Schatt enjoyed science as well, and as an incoming freshman at UMD he selected biology as his primary course of study, thinking he’d add French as a minor later. But as he found himself enjoying his French classes more and more, he eventually decided to switch to a full French major. “It’s exciting,” Schatt says of the change. “I’m by no means fluent or anything, but it’s exciting to be knowing that I’m progressing.”

For some time, Schatt had been interested in learning another language besides French, so he took ARAB104, an intensive course in elementary Arabic. The Arabic he acquired was a perfect match with his existing French skills, as France shares some linguistic and cultural overlap with the Maghreb. “It’s definitely much harder,” Schatt admits of learning Arabic, “but it’s also really interesting, and I think the program itself and the way that it’s taught is pretty beneficial to someone who has no experience.” The structure of ARAB104, taught at a fast pace and without any English whatsoever, says Schatt, “really forced me to figure out what was going on more quickly.”

For Schatt, choosing courses of study based on communicating with people seemed like a natural progression. “I’m definitely a people person,” he says. “As an extrovert, people pump me up.” Now Schatt is a teaching assistant for UNIV100, a mandatory class that helps incoming freshmen adjust to college life. Although the class is not language-focused, Schatt’s particular section is comprised only of language majors. “It’s not a difficult class for them,” Schatt says, “but that’s because a lot of it is focused on self-reflection and finding their niche at the university.” Academic rigor, new friendships and navigating a large school are common concerns for Schatt’s students. “It’s hard for them to realize that everyone is in the same boat,” he says. “But I think they also have to know that they have their own self-worth.”

Schatt also enjoys a unique experience in the classroom as compared to other teaching assistants. His peers often fulfill auxiliary roles that do not involve much planning or speaking. But Schatt’s faculty advisor, Italian lecturer Stefania Amodeo, allows him to plan and teach lessons regularly. Schatt is grateful for the challenge, as it’s another form of leadership. Of his experiences in the course, along with his language studies, Schatt says, “I’ve found myself in a wide variety of positions that are all related.”

For the moment, Schatt’s future career plans are unspecified. “I know for now that what I want to do is pretty unclear,” he says. He hopes that studying abroad in Nice next fall and developing his languages will give him ideas. Teaching seems an attractive option, as does student affairs: “I like working with people, and students especially.” But Schatt is in no rush to decide the future today. He says, “I am of the opinion that you should just do things and pursue things that interest you, and keep doing that, and from there, more things will show up.” For now, he loves French, Arabic, and teaching, and he is confident that he will eventually find a career path involving some—or all—of those elements. “If it’s worth it to you, you will find more opportunities from that,” Schatt says, adding, “there’s no point in giving up something you love.”

Samantha Suplee ('14, Spanish Language & Literature and History)
SLLC Public Relations and Media Intern