FLAS fellowships fund the study of less commonly taught languages and area studies coursework. This program provides academic year and summer fellowships to assist graduate students and advanced undergraduates in foreign language and area studies. The goals of the fellowship program include: (1) to assist in the development of knowledge, resources and trained personnel for modern foreign language and area/international studies; (2) to stimulate the attainment of foreign language acquisition and fluency; and (3) to develop a pool of international experts to meet national needs.
We were pleased to sit down with one of these recipients, Kristina Caltabiano.
Before pursuing a dual graduate degree in social work and public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Caltabiano served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. There, she worked as a health educator in a rural Mayan community and cemented her aspirations to work internationally in a community organizing capacity. After learning about FLAS from a Peace Corps colleague, Caltabiano pursued the opportunity and was granted an award to learn Portuguese.
FLAS was even one of the reasons Caltabiano chose to pursue UNC’s dual MSW and MPH degree. She said the opportunity allowed her to tailor course assignments to align with her interests on different areas within Brazil. Part of the award allowed her to live in São Paulo and pursue an upcoming fall semester in Rio de Janeiro, where she hopes to achieve full proficiency.
“Such a huge part of my graduate school experience is learning Portuguese, and I’m so grateful and aware of what a gift it is,” Caltabiano said.
Studying languages has always been an interest of Caltabiano. Originally from Syracuse, NY, Caltabiano attended St. John’s University where she studied both Psychology, International Relations and minored in Spanish. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad in Chile and then following graduation, spent one year teaching English in Spain.
“Languages are fun for me,” Caltabiano said.
In addition to learning Portuguese in her graduate studies, Caltabiano participated in the APPLES Global Course Guanajuato alternative spring break. The course allowed her to be connected to the local immigrant community and better understand the link between North Carolina and migration, specifically from Guanajuato, Mexico. Caltabiano said the oral histories particularly humanized learning about the migration experience.
“You can hear and read about migration all the time, but interviews bring to life someone’s personal account of what life looks like, what life looks back in their home country, and how their kids lives are different from theirs,” Caltabiano said.
When she’s not busy learning Portuguese, studying for her dual degree, or participating in service learning, Caltabiano enjoys traveling, being outside, and spending time with loved ones.
Thank you so much for sharing photos from your experiences in Brazil (above) and thank you for joining us, Kristina! We look forward to the great things you will do!