In preparation for an eight-month position working at various NGOs in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sam Smukler ’12 will spend his summer studying intensive Vietnamese at the South East Asian Studies Summer Institute at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
“I’ll be feeding my passion for languages that Hobart and William Smith allowed me to discover,” says Smuckler, who studied abroad in Hanoi during the fall semester of his junior year, and at the Vietnamese Advanced Summer Institute in Ho Chi Minh City last summer.
The competitive language program is a training program for undergraduates, graduate students and professionals.
“The South East Asian Studies Summer Institute is an important national resource: many languages of South-East Asia are taught in this intensive program, and they are taught by the brightest and best linguists dealing with those various languages,” says Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures James-Henry Holland. “Primarily attended by graduate students or others in need of advanced skills in these languages, the institute allows participants to hang out and talk with people studying these languages, thereby allowing them to greatly deepen and broaden their own linguistic skills.”
Smukler, who will be attending the institute at the third-year level of Vietnamese, will receive one of the institute’s partial scholarships thanks to a recommendation from Holland.
“Aside from his other metalinguistic interests and skills, Sam’s ability to study a language, monitor his own progress, understand linguistic analyses, evaluate the quality of his sources and listen carefully before repeating are some of the skills of a strong language learner,” says Holland. “Sam’s musicianship as a singer in the Colleges’ Chorale overlaps with his ability to hear and reproduce the ‘melody’ and ‘rhythm’ of a foreign language, and probably also accounts for his understanding of the importance of regular and focused practice.”
In addition to providing him with a recommendation, Smukler credits Holland’s classes with providing him with the opportunity to discover his love of foreign languages.
“The stereotype about college serving as the place to ‘discover oneself’ certainly held true for me and foreign language learning,” says Smukler. “I’m incredibly lucky to have found something that I’m not only passionate about and enjoy learning, but for which I have support from the people in my life that I care about.”
Following his work in Vietnam, Smukler hopes to return to the United States to pursue a master’s degree.
“The great thing about majoring in the social sciences is that it’s pretty applicable to a wide range of fields, so I don’t have to commit to a specific career path just yet,” says the sociology and Asian studies double major.