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For Alex Carrillo, what started as a major requirement has evolved into a passion for French, and for building communities at Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC).
Carrillo initially studied business, but did not enjoy the coursework and felt far from her home in Chicago. After switching to major in sustainability, Carrillo looked for a compelling language besides Spanish, which she already speaks fluently.
“I studied French in high school but I didn’t take it too seriously,” Carrillo said. “I said ‘I’m going to challenge myself, I want to become trilingual,’ and studied French.”
Through French, Carrillo had an entry point into the various communities SILC offers.
Carrillo credits Diana Latimore with triggering her passion for French, explaining that, “she taught me a different perspective on how to learn a language. It’s not only about learning it but learning about the culture, actually interacting with it on a personal level and not just learning vocabulary”.
With the promise of extra credit, Carrillo went to attend the SILC Café, a weekly event, sponsored by the SILC Attachés, of students connecting over culture, language and conversation. Over time, Carrillo was increasingly active in the club, eventually helping to run it. She eventually served as SILC Attachés vice president.
“I would describe it as a very tight-knit, diverse, community. It’s a very safe environment,” Carrillo said. “For me personally, it’s to create a welcoming community...it’s also very fun to build relationships with other students. I have more friends who are minoring and majoring in French than who are sustainability students.”
With Carrillo’s help, regular attendance of SILC Café has grown to around 30 students, sometimes over 50. In fact, after Carrillo brought two friends to the club, both got more involved and will serve as officers in the fall.
In addition to being SILC SILC Attachés vice president, Carrillo also works for SILC as an advisory assistant, focusing on helping students with their proficiency testing. She appreciates the trust SILC staff give her in this role.
“Sometimes younger people are not respected in work environments,” Carrillo explained, “[At SILC,] I feel that they respect me enough that I can actually build relationships with adults, not just be looked at as a college student, but as a [co]-worker.”
While Carrillo has focused on her community at SILC, she believes that her goals of sustainable urban planning align with her French skills, citing Haiti as a possible destination.
“In high school, I just wanted to get an A. I think in [SILC], they teach in a way where you actually want to learn, you want to be training, you want to communicate with others,” Carrillo said.
Studying and working at SILC has helped shape Carrillo’s experience at ASU as she puts her skills back into the school. One day Carrillo hopes to work in her hometown of Chicago applying sustainability to urban planning. For now, she is preparing to spend the upcoming fall semester in Lyon, France.