Students in Action

Five students took very different paths this summer as they applied their humanities training in research and internships, domestically and abroad.

PROVO, Utah (Sep 23, 2016)—One of BYU’s unofficial mottos states that “the World is our Campus.” Nowhere is this assertion truer than in the College of Humanities, where students regularly leave Provo to learn from and do good in the world through internships and research, both domestically and abroad. Here’s how five students chose to pursue the last few months:

French in the Great Salt Lake

In preparation for the tourist season, Drew Hemsley and Kenneth Bedwell set to work with the help of French professor Yvon LeBras in a translation project for the Great Salt Lake State Park’s visitors website. Two weeks and eight pages of translation later, the project provided them not only an opportunity to learn more about the intricacies of translation, but also necessary preparation for the French internships they would be involved in during the following months.

Despite what some would expect, the translation process involves much more than replacing English words with their French equivalents. “It really comes down to understanding how people would accept what we were saying in that culture and if it would be relevant to them as far as what they were reading,” Hemsley says.

This was particularly clear when the students encountered a range of scientific terms that were unfamiliar even in their native language. “I remember one word was ‘sea monkeys,’ and we spent quite a bit of time trying to decide what to use for it,” Bedwell laughs. “We not only had to understand the expressions and translate those, we had to understand the scientific terms as well.” He adds, “It opened my eyes to the world of translation and how difficult it can be.”

Ben JacobA Physician’s Care

Ben Jacob found himself working in a hospital in Guadalajara, Spain, shadowing doctors as part of BYU’s Global Health Internship program. He and his fellow students observed surgeries, worked in labs and sat in on checkups with patients, then took time to tour Madrid and local historical sites. Jacob, an interdisciplinary humanities major with plans to go into medical school, enjoyed the chance to learn about another nation’s healthcare while also honing his Spanish.

More than anything else, though, Jacob was touched by the level of attention doctors gave their patients, not only to their health problems but to their lives as well. He saw doctors take the time to speak with and get to know their patients, connecting with them on a personal level. He remembers in particular how one doctor would show affection for her patients: “She would always tenderly touch the cheek of her patients as she would leave the clinic,” he says. “It was such a simple gesture . . . but it left an impact on me.” As he pursues his own career in medicine, Jacob hopes to emulate that example and make his patients feel cared for, in body and soul.


Kaylee DeWittJournalism Abroad

In Riga, Latvia, communications and Russian double major Kaylee DeWitt was immersed in the world of journalism, researching and interviewing celebrities and writing articles for a Russian-language newspaper called Vesti Segodnya. Caught up in a completely different culture, DeWitt learned how to balance her perspectives as an American and present issues without bias, including difficult interviews with individuals from both sides of a NATO protest.

DeWitt’s efforts paid off, in spite of moments in which she felt lost in translation. She added that one of the highlights of her internship was having opportunities to interview influential figures in Latvia, including the first lady of Latvia, the British ambassador after Brexit and even members of the Latvian Olympic team.

Over the summer, DeWitt published six articles and contributed to a number of others, but the work was far from easy. “Getting to use Russian so much was a challenge and a blessing,” DeWitt said. “I think a journalism internship would be hard enough in English, and sometimes details for my articles would slip through the cracks if the event and interviews were only in Russian that day. However, it also helped my Russian skills to greatly improve and it increased my confidence speaking Russian.”

Laura DeckerImproving Testing

In June, TESOL MA student Laura Decker participated in the International Language Testing Association’s annual Language Testing Research Colloquium in Palermo, Italy. Her mentor, assistant professor Troy Cox, stood in the crowd and watched Decker present her research-laden poster to a packed hall of researchers, educators and test developers.

Working with Cox, Decker researched the effects on international students’ GPA of raising TOEFL score requirements for international admission to BYU. She found that raising the TOEFL score requirement for admission ensured that international students would be more prepared to succeed in classes. When international students enter the university with a better grasp of English, the language barrier is lowered and other factors are allowed to influence students’ academic performance.

Decker had previously presented her findings to the International Admissions Office at BYU and at the AALL in Orlando, Florida. In Italy, though, Decker met with the people involved in creating the very test she had spent so long studying, receiving feedback and advice for improving her research.

She believes that having figured out how to do the research herself, she is now better equipped for her future. Asked about her career goals, she replies confidently, “I plan on doing more research in the future; I plan on continuing my education and becoming a researcher.”

—Sylvia Cutler, Olivia Madsen, Samuel Wright


Photo one: Photo of the Great Salt Lake entitled Just another day on the Lake by Irwin Scott.

Photo two: Ben Jacob with a medical team in Spain, courtesy of Ben Jacob

Photo three: Kaylee DeWitt conducting an interview, courtesy of Kaylee DeWitt

Photo four: Laura Decker presenting at the International Language Testing Association’s annual Language Testing Research Colloquium in Palermo, Italy, courtesy of Laura Decker.