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Rhodes Scholar Natalie Navarrete On Studying Spanish and Russian

Rhodes Scholar Natalie Navarrete

Natalie Navarrete, a triple major in Spanish, Russian, and International Affairs, and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, was recently named a 2023 Rhodes Scholar. Natalie is currently completing a national security-focused scholarship in Kazakhstan as a Boren Scholar. She spoke with Dr. Tim Gupton, Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics, about the value of her language studies at UGA (full video below):

...All of the language study that I've done, both in the Spanish program, and in the Russian program, has helped me understand different perspectives and opened up doors to different cultures. So, I think having those different approaches to the issues I will be facing in the international affairs career that I want to pursue, specifically in nonproliferation, has been really helpful.

I want to say that I've loved all my Spanish classes because I genuinely did love all my Spanish classes, but I think probably the one that was the most memorable was a class I took my freshman year with Dr. Nuño Castellanos. It was SPAN 4080, so it was a topics class on literature and media of the Spanish Civil War. I am completely fascinated by Spanish Civil War literature, and I thought it was such an amazing opportunity to take a class that was focused on what I wanted to do. Everything we learned about memoria histórica, about the International Brigades, and just seeing how there were so many influences from different countries coming together around that idea of revolution. It was such a powerful class, and so many of the stories that we read and the movies that we watched have had a lasting impact on me.

I starting seeing the connection of studying Spanish and Russian way, way back when I was living in Mexico. I was little, and my mom always told me that my favorite places to visit were the museums in Frida Kahlo’s house, Diego Rivera's house, and Leon Trotsky's house. So, always in my mind there was that connection, and when I went back my senior year of high school and we visited, we went back to those museums, and this time, you know I was a little more politically conscious. I was more aware of not just the beauty of the museums, but I was like, “Oh, the bullet holes in these walls are here because people tried to assassinate Trotsky.” And then fast forward to college where I’m able to really dig into that idea more. There were Mexican writers and revolutionary thinkers that met Russian writers and revolutionary thinkers in the Spanish Civil War. In the International Brigade there was the sharing of the ideas there. Then getting more into Spanish literature, and, when I was finally able to read Russian literature, seeing parallels in what you could call a sort of magical realism in Russia, or an absurdism that is born in the nineteenth century or the twentieth century following the revolution, just like you see in Latin America, born out of the confusion and the stress and the pressure of revolution.

So, seeing those connections in art and literature was really what inspired me then to conduct my research on different security issues, seeing how that connection could manifest in other places.

I would say to students at Georgia to take advantage of the special topics classes offered in the Spanish Department. Those specific classes help build your sort of the story that you're working on at UGA, and help direct you in different ways that you wouldn't have imagined. I think not being afraid to experiment. Taking advantage of the things that you're really interested in, even if they seem a little off the beaten path, they all come back to connect, and diving into something that you're genuinely interested in, no matter how you think it plays with what the rest of what you're doing. I think that comes through and that helps build your narrative and helps direct you a lot better than trying to be super calculating about how you're going about picking classes and such...

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