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Before returning to school to work on my PhD, I had just been working as an Assistant Professor for six years at a leading university in South America. Though I was very happy in a job that without question has been one of the most positive, formative experiences of my life (e.g., opportunities to be a course leader, to develop personal research agendas, including the financial backing to attend conferences and publish, etc.), I had begun to sense that I needed a PhD for several reasons. Above all else, I felt that there were big gaps in my theoretical knowledge that I needed to address. As a result of this, the projects I designed I always privately felt were “ambitious, but flawed.” Furthermore, I wasn’t making the connection between my classroom teaching, research, and publishing.
I am happy to report that my time at SLS has provided me with important advances in these three above-described aspects of my professional life. I’ve found that I am surrounded by peers who bring to the classroom a tremendous wealth of personal and professional experience. My professors have been great and have supported my personal research agenda by encouraging me to work on projects within my courses that develop the experiences I’ve had. I’ve started to publish. All in all, I am deeply thankful both to my professors and peers for shaping me with such a tremendous experience.
I started out in the department of SLS as an M.A. student with only a little experience teaching and no knowledge of research or theory within the field. I’ve since continued on to pursue my PhD here in Hawaii, and what’s driven me to this goal has been the atmosphere of support and development I’ve found with my classmates and professors. Not only have I been given a strong theoretical background in research methods and language acquisition/teaching, but at every step my professors have encouraged me to connect my coursework to my own interests and goals, and develop not just a base of knowledge but practical skills and experience to accomplish these goals and contribute to the field of second languages. It’s a joy being around other people who are enthusiastic about language learning, and I feel like a valued member of the community, where my input is encouraged and appreciated.
In March of 2010, I was ecstatic to receive news of my admittance into the SLS department to commence the MA degree in Fall, 2010. My plan was to learn the ins and outs of how people use, teach, and learn languages and aimed to be well-trained on the research methodologies that the academics in my field are so well-versed in. The ultimate aim was admittance into a doctoral program. After 6 semesters, I am happy to report that I have done all of the things I have set out to do and have not only been admitted into a PhD program, but I will commence my studies here in the Fall of 2013!
I feel quite fortunate to be learning from the professors in our department, who set the bar high and expect the best from their students. This rigor that is expected of the students as researchers means that I am constantly surrounded by peers whose experiences, hard work and dedication ensure that we are always learning from each other; we go to the top conferences in our field and keep our fingers on the pulse of the research being done in our field.
I have learned so much about the field of applied linguistics, about presenting at conferences, from attending presentations and workshops put on by my peers and the faculty. I have learned a bit about life as an academic, a lot about publishing, and about teaching. Of course I’ve learned about being a scholar and colleague. Our department is lucky to have a strong student association (SLSSA) who puts on academic workshops and monthly social events. They raise funds and sell t-shirts and delicious baked goods to raise money for our annual retreat. I have made some really nice friends here and learned about collegiality. I can’t imagine being anywhere more welcoming or more demanding yet absolutely exciting for my PhD. Each semester leaves me always wanting to learn even more, apply what I have learned and explore new research topics. What an exciting time this is for me!