Rebecca Galloway, Netherlands, Economics
Crowded, steamy natatoriums filled with athletes of all sizes and ages were like second homes to me most weekends throughout my childhood and adolescence. Beginning at age eight, my life revolved around my swimming career; I attended swim camps to improve my stroke, traveled to different states to compete in regional meets, and placed among top swimmers nationwide by the mere age of ten. My competitive spirit, solid work ethic, and perseverance helped me to fulfill the role as swim team captain in high school and eventually achieve my childhood dream: competing at the university level.
When I left home for the first time and set foot on a university campus, a brand new door of opportunities was opened for me. As the weeks progressed and I spent countless hours before and after class swimming up and down the same lane, I started to question dedicating my college life to swimming. I wanted to join French club, sing in the university choir, and explore other countries and cultures through studying and working abroad. After a successful swim season at the end of February, I met with my coach in his office and exchanged my team swimsuit and bag for a college life beyond the scope of a twenty-five-yard pool fenced in by tile walls and lane lines.
Since that day in February 2003, I have set foot in eleven different countries, studied five different languages, made a CD recording with the university chorale, and discovered an area of study about which I am passionate. I was first introduced to economics the first semester of my sophomore year. Economic theory fascinated me because it helped me look at the functioning of society through a different perspective. Sometimes I would apply economic theory to topics of lectures and discussions in other classes and then meet with my Economics professor and talk about it. It wasn’t until I studied in France that I was inspired to do empirical research on a contemporary economic issue.
While I lived in Nancy, France, I noticed almost immediately a lack of ethnic diversity, unlike what I had seen in Brussels and Antwerp the previous summer. This observation sparked an interest in European immigration and led me to research the topic further, particularly after France and the Netherlands declined the ratification of an official European constitution for certain political reasons, such as immigration policy.
This wave of interest did not surprise me in the least. When I first started taking language courses as a young teenager, I was as deeply interested in the culture behind the language as I was in the language itself. As soon as I entered high school, I joined AFS (the exchange student organization) so I could participate in activities with all of the foreign students attending my school. By my senior year, I was acquainted with students from Mexico, Thailand, Peru, Australia, and Russia, and I had acquired two lifetime friendships: Veronica from Chile and Bart from Belgium. As I walked across the stage at high school graduation, I was eager to move on to the next stage in my life and experience a world beyond the scope of Chillicothe, Ohio. At the same time, my aspirations of being a translator for the United Nations or an administrator in the French embassy seemed a step closer to becoming a reality.
The combination of my fascination with economic analysis and my passion for other cultures has invited me to discover an entirely new line of thought and observation. My various experiences studying and working abroad have opened my eyes not only to a world of multilingual expression, but also to a realm of open-mindedness and awareness of others and their unique cultural differences. This is a priceless tool that I will use to my advantage as I continue my exploration of other societies and cultures and live my long-awaited dream of working in an institution that allows me to make use of my three favorite things: economics, foreign languages, and fondness of cultures.
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