Caitlin Buck - Class of 2009
Caitlin’s Spanish major led her abroad and beyond.
I’ll start by saying that I had no intention of majoring in Spanish at Southwestern - but after about a semester or a year, it seemed the best fit for me. I loved studying Spanish in high school, and had a very strict, authoritarian Mexican teacher who ingrained in my mind the importance of grammar (which the nerd in me absolutely loved), and a very strong work ethic. Her difficult and advanced course load gave me a strong background and set me up for success at SU.
With that being said, I loved studying Spanish at SU - not only did it give me the opportunity to spend a year abroad, but learning the language and cultures of Latin America and Spain opened my eyes to different regions of the world and broadened my perspective.
After graduating from SU, I went to Texas A&M University to study public policy and international affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. With my background and interest in Latin America, I focused on learning more about how political and economic systems function in the region and how those shape our country’s relationship with those nations. Also, given my love for Spanish and my ability to understand what my Spanish-speaking classmates were saying in Spanish, I was named an honorary Latina, which of course, made me extremely happy!
After getting my Masters at A&M, I received the Presidential Management Fellowship, and got a job with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Washington, D.C. The fellowship is a two-year placement in a federal agency, allowing rotations in other agencies to see how the Federal government functions from a variety of perspectives. During my fellowship, I have worked in CBP’s Office of Policy and Planning, Office of Intelligence, and at the United States Agency for International Development working on democracy, human rights and governance issues in Latin America. My knowledge of the region (albeit scant compared to my extremely knowledgeable and well-traveled colleagues), as well as my language capabilities, have been absolutely essential to my landing rotations in these offices.
While I don’t plan on staying in government service too much longer, my studying Spanish has definitely paid off in ways I didn’t originally imagine. My next plan is to move on to study physical therapy. Random, right? Well, in addition to having a passion for Spanish, I have a passion for exercise and wellness, and while my time up here has been good, I’ve decided it’s not really for me long-term. So, my education continues! I’m taking prerequisite science classes at night to get into a physical therapy program and hope to enroll in a program in the next couple of years. I’m relying on my patience that I largely acquired overseas in Latin America to get me through the next year or two without losing it!