Answers to the Contest, Part I

OK, folks, I have finally managed to get some sleep and I’m back to blogging. Here are the answers to the most recent questions in our “How well do you know Clarissa” contest.

1. Career choice. Many of you said correctly that my father suggested that I learn Spanish. However, he didn’t suggest I choose Hispanic Studies as a career because he – like everybody in my country – had no idea such a career existed.

I got the idea of choosing Hispanic Studies as a career because I really loved one of these endless Colombian soap operas that had become so popular in the FSU countries during the early nineties. I was always very successful academically but I knew it wasn’t really my achievement. My father had made great sacrifices to ensure that I spoke good English. This was what fed me back in Ukraine and what made me feel successful.

Still, I kept wondering whether I would have amounted to anything on my own, whether I would be as successful without my father’s help. This is why I decided to find a career where I would start from scratch and even be at a disadvantage compared to my competitors.

The Colombian soap opera showed to me that there was an entire world, a culture, a language that I knew absolutely nothing about. I was so ignorant of Hispanic culture that I hadn’t read a single line of Spanish literature. I had read extensively of British, German, French, American, hell, even Australian literature. My knoweldge of the Hispanic world, however, was absolutely and completely non-existent. This would ensure that the experiment I wanted to conduct was done right. I needed a field which was entirely new to me but which I would be able to love.

When I tell people this story and mention that emigrating to Canada and taking my entire family with me was the first stage of this experiment, they think I’m a raving lunatic. The experiment was quite successful, though, as you can see.


8 thoughts on “Answers to the Contest, Part I”

  1. Is “Hispanic Studies” really such a completely different animal from “Spanish Philology”?

    I know the (Cantral-Eastern) European tradition in philology is heavy on endless picky grammar classes and memorizing names and dates of who wrote what and deadly dry etymological dictionaries in user unfriendly formats but it is in the same general area.

    On the other hand, there’s just about no tradition of going back to university as an adult to change careers in that part of the world (too bad) so that kind of re-inventing yourself is a lot easier in North America.


      1. Pedantic twit alert: Ka Ina wasn’t Colombian it was Venezuelan (according to the credits and Wikipedia and the accent in the youtube excerpts I found seemed more breathy Venezuelan than crisp Colombian).

        Or were all telenovelas called ‘Colombian’ in Ukraine?


        1. Of course, it’s Venezuelan, I apologize. I’ve been so exhausted that I can’t say anything right. I have one lat meeting to attend and then the semester will be over and I will be normal again.nor as normal as I can be. 🙂


  2. “This is why I decided to find a career where I would start from scratch and even be at a disadvantage compared to my competitors.” … and not have any specific family expectations or fears. This precisely is why I want(ed) to go to law school.


  3. Funnily enough, I did Arabic for similar reasons – to study something I’d never studied before, for the novelty value, and because I wanted to speak a foreign language. I’d always been crap at French at school. There was no reason to think I’d be good at Arabic but I also liked the idea of a challenge.

    Ironically, now I speak French fluently and can remember practically nothing of the Arabic I learned.


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