FIU Alumni: Portuguese Program Success Stories

Kurt Huxel

B.A. in Portuguese, 2007
M.A. in Linguistics, 2008

What made you decide to major in Portuguese?

Prior to seeking a degree in Portuguese, I had served as a missionary for my church in southern Brazil for two years. Through that experience I gained a love for the Brazilian people and the Portuguese language. While I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, I had a desire to continue to study the language in a hope to use it in my future career. As I searched through the Portuguese program, of which there are a limited number, I decided on FIU because it was a more language-based program, as opposed to literature. The courses focused on usage and application of the language. FIU also provided the opportunity to complete a translation certificate. I enjoyed this program immensely as it incorporated full time students and industry professionals in a diverse classroom environment.

How did your studies in Portuguese influence your current activity (job/studies/projects)?

Unexpectedly, a little over six months after finishing my masters at FIU, I joined the U.S. Army. At that time, I thought that I would not have a chance to use my language skills any further. For the next eight years I barely used Portuguese. Even so, the communication and analytical skills developed as part of learning language and culture helped me to succeed as I worked with diverse groups of people as an Army officer. A few years ago, as a result of my degree in Portuguese, the Department of Foreign Languages at the United States Military Academy – West Point (USMA), reached out to me and invited me to apply for a three-year teaching assignment. I am now completing my final year at USMA. It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences. I have had the opportunity to work with wonderful people, teach cadets a language and culture I have grown to love, led groups of cadets on excursions throughout Brazil, Portugal, and the Azores. As a result of my experiences as a missionary, my education at FIU, and my time teaching at USMA, I have been selected to be a Foreign Area Officer for the Army in the Western Hemisphere. In this career field, I will grow the relationships I have developed with many Brazilian officers, joint military schooling in Brazil, and work with allies throughout the Americas.

What advice would you give to current students who are thinking of majoring in Portuguese?

The value of a degree in a language, specifically Portuguese, cannot be overstated. Majoring in Portuguese provides you with a new perspective of the world around you. As you study a language, you learn how people communicate with one another. It’s not about learning to speak, communication allows you to share ideas, understand how others perceive the world around them. But it is not all about learning a language, it is culture. Through a language, you can grow an understanding of the people who speak the language. The ability to understand people is essential in the world we live in. Developing an open perspective of the world and learning how to communicate with others on a linguistic and cultural level will only sever to enhance a person’s ability to achieve success in their career.

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Manaus, AM, Brasil

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Praça do Comércio, Lisboa, Portugal


Joseph Montes de Oca

B.A. in Portuguese, 2013

What made you decide to major in Portuguese?

I was interested in a career teaching foreign languages and I knew that the demand for learning Portuguese was going to rise.

What are some of the advantages that you have had in the job market with a degree in Portuguese?

It helped me get my first serious job at VISA, working in a call center. The fact that I had a degree in Portuguese, and my hard work and dedication, helped me move up in the company more quickly than my peers. My degree in Portuguese also helped me quickly become certified to teach Portuguese when I finally found a job opening in teaching.

How did your studies in Portuguese influence your current activity (job/studies/projects)?

That led me to both of my more serious jobs, including one that I have decided will be the career for the rest of my working life, teaching Portuguese at Southwest Miami Senior High School for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Studying Portuguese has been incredibly rewarding and I love passing it on to my students and giving them an advantage as Brazil’s influence in South Florida continues to rise.

What advice would you give to current students who are thinking of majoring in Portuguese?

A career in teaching or translating/interpreting is very satisfying and rewarding. Majoring in Portuguese shows you are serious in your language studies and will set you apart from others in the field. It will not be an easy major and there will be a lot of writing to be done, but it is worth it in the end!

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Study abroad trip with FIU and Professor Vono to Belo Horizonte, Summer 2012