Skip to main content

Alumni advise students to capitalize on their foreign language skills

From left: Professor Julia Kushigian, Carl Prather '04, Katherine Avgerinos '06 and Lauren Burke '06.
From left: Professor Julia Kushigian, Carl Prather '04, Katherine Avgerinos '06 and Lauren Burke '06.

Lauren Burke ’06 is an immigration attorney specializing in human trafficking.

Carl Prather ’04, a financial analyst, focuses on emerging markets.

Katherine Avgerinos ’06 is a public relations associate whose clients include Gazprom, a global energy company based in Moscow.

All three honed their language fluency at Connecticut College, and for all three, it’s an integral part of their work.

They visited campus in April to talk with students about their career paths as part of the “Sundays with Alumni” series, which brings alumni from several different fields each semester.

Burke, Prather and Avgerinos urged students to be proactive in learning language skills and promoting those skills with prospective employers or graduate schools. The discussion was moderated by Julia Kushigian, professor of Hispanic studies.

Their advice:

• There is no manual to tell you how to apply your language skills to your career. Think creatively and use the opportunities you have at Connecticut College to figure out what’s possible and what you’re passionate about.

• It’s great to be able to tell prospective employers that you went abroad to improve your conversational skills. Take every chance you can as a student, since those opportunities will be harder to find once you’re working. Be honest with employers about your level of proficiency.

• Don’t be embarrassed to speak your language out loud or ask questions. Your professors want to help. Don’t worry if your language skills don’t click right away. It can take a while.

• Stay connected with your language. Use it in social situations and seek out places where it’s spoken. Avgerinos began going to a Russian church to help with her fluency.

• Meet people in your field by interviewing them for a paper or project. Alumni are also great for networking. Start as an undergraduate.

Burke, a staff attorney with The Door Legal Services Center in New York, is fluent in Mandarin.

Avgerinos is fluent in Russian. She is an account associate for Ketchum, a leading public relations firm in Manhattan.

Prather is a senior analyst with EMP Latin America, a leading private equity firm. He is fluent in Spanish.

May 16, 2011