English, communication major finds window into other world
For Beaumont native Kara Timberlake, her growing curiosity and love for adventure sparked a desire in her to learn about other cultures.
An English and Communication major with a minor in Spanish, Timberlake traveled to Salamanca, Spain, in summer 2014 for a study abroad program offered by Lamar.
“Books inspired an appetite for traveling at an early age,” Timberlake said. “From childhood, I’ve read about places all over the world, specifically their histories and resulting cultures. I always loved discovering how each culture held a special meaning to that civilization and how vastly cultures differ according to their region.”
With a passion for reading and literature, majoring in English was a natural choice for Timberlake.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I loved being enraptured in a new book,” she said. “As I grew older, I started to appreciate each author’s unique style of putting together words. I am always amazed at the ingenious way a writer chooses to unravel character developments and weave in underlying themes.”
After completing her first year of college, she added a second major in Communication to diversify her professional options after graduation.
“Upon seriously contemplating what I wanted to do after I graduated, I came to the conclusion that another major might provide learning experiences and training to help me find my way to the field where I belong,” she said. “I am interested in both what the English and Communication fields have to offer so I decided why not study both.”
While taking classes to fulfill a foreign language requirement for her minor in Spanish, Timberlake was alerted to the idea of studying abroad by Norma Zarzosa, Coordinator of Global Studies and Study Abroad.
“I always dreamed about having the opportunity to study abroad, but I wasn’t sure if it would be a financially viable option,” she said. “However, when I learned that there were several grants and scholarships available, I knew this was something I must pursue.”
Having previous knowledge about the culture of Spain, Timberlake was intrigued to see in action what she had read in textbooks.
“When we studied the history and customs of Spain in my classes, I was mesmerized by the beauty of their traditions,” she said. “The culture encompasses such vibrancy. Also, learning about the formation of the language and how history played a significant role in the development of certain vocabulary is a fascinating aspect of the culture. I think it’s important to learn about other cultures and see how the other world lives. It has the power to widen one’s perspective.”
In Spain, Timberlake encountered opportunities to visit museums, cathedrals, palaces, and other sites of historical significance.
“I remember the first day we arrived to Spain, we visited the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid where there is artwork by renowned artists like Francisco de Goya, El Greco, and Diego Velázquez,” she said. “I was amazed to see in person these impressive works and to reflect on what the artist was thinking when creating these pieces. Also, while we were in Spain, we attended other prominent museums such as the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, visited and learnt about the history of some of Spain’s breath-taking cathedrals, visited the Royal Palace in Madrid, and got to examine the beautiful architecture the country offered. Seeing these bits and pieces of Spain helped me understand the country and its culture infinitely better.”
While studying in Salamanca, Spain, Timberlake stayed with a host family where she learned how to assimilate into the culture.
“Living with my host mother, Marisol, who didn’t know any English, I was forced to rely on my Spanish speaking skills,” she said. “Even though it was nerve-wracking at first, I gained confidence in my speaking abilities and was able to communicate with Marisol about a range of subjects. By speaking only Spanish, I became accustomed to the language and immersed myself in the culture. The environment fostered a real world application of what I was learning in the classroom.”
At the University in Salamanca, Timberlake attended classes five days a week and went on university tours around the city as well as weekend excursions to the neighboring cities.
“My teachers in Salamanca were phenomenal: they strived to educate us about their country and language while encouraging us to make the most out of our trip,” she said. “On the weekends, we had the opportunity to tour exciting landmarks in the cities of Sevilla and Granada. While there, we compounded on our knowledge of Spain’s history and saw astonishing architecture indicative of the Spanish style.”
Timberlake said her time in Spain was unforgettable and life-changing.
“Every experience I underwent during my trip led me to have a richer appreciation of the culture and the people of Spain,” she said. “I learned a lot from my teachers and tour guides, made brilliant memories, ate excellent cuisine, and gained amazing friends. After visiting Spain, I have an overwhelming desire to explore the rest of the world.”
While at Lamar, Timberlake said she looks forward to participating in additional study abroad avenues.
“I’m hoping to pursue internship or research possibilities abroad before I graduate,” she said. “Now that I know what study abroad encompasses, I want to take the initiative and test my skills overseas.”
Timberlake said she is grateful for the opportunities she has encountered at Lamar.
“Without Lamar, I wouldn’t have been able to fulfill a dream of studying abroad and broaden my life experiences,” she said. “Leaving home and stepping out of my comfort zone molded me into a more confident individual.”