YoL 1x2 Essay Winners


October 17, 2022

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, and Friends,

I am delighted to announce the winners of the first annual Year of Languages Essay Prize in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.  Five Essay Prize winners and seven Honorable Mentions were selected by an interdisciplinary faculty committee from dozens of submissions.  Students were invited to write 150-word essays in English and in one or more of the languages they are studying at Rutgers. 

The question we asked was, “Why Do I Learn Languages?”  Hundreds of Rutgers students participated in the competition.  The submissions came to us in more than fifteen languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Persian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and Urdu.  

Here is what some of the prize-winning students said.

“Since my goal is to become a doctor,” writes Noor Rashed, a Biology and Neuroscience major, “learning a totally new language has shown me how speaking a different language means that you can actually see the world in a totally different way. For example, Korean may have a word to describe the way pain is felt that is not conveyed the same way in English. As a doctor, it is my responsibility to understand things from everyone’s viewpoint, and learning a new language propels me toward that.”  Read in Korean.  

“I've been bilingual for as long as I've lived,” explains Andi Craciun, a Visual Art and Philosophy major, “learning Romanian and English in tandem at home, living on a cultural shibboleth between Western individualism and Eastern collectivism, navigating a narrow passage of biculturality that binds the child of every immigrant in a network of plurality… Spanish has brought me closer to understanding myself; speaking another language can be a way to approach another way of life, but also to discover shared values and symbols. By learning Spanish, I am more aware of my own bicultural identity than ever.” (Read in Spanish.)

“Language in education is presented as a means to worldliness but its value varies from one person to the next,” asserts Luis Sanchez-Gonzalez, major in Biological Sciences and Linguistics. “To some it is the ability to see the world, and to others, a pursuit of knowledge. We often overlook, however, that to others still, it is the opportunity for a better life, leaving home. The value of language to people like us is disregarded, but for it, I teach my mother English and have learned six languages (and counting), holding onto the ideal of a better life.” Read in German, Italian, and Spanish.

Among the essay winners and honorable mentions, we can see the enormous range of disciplines that language learners come from.  The YoL Essay Prize was also awarded to Ezra Campos-Pereira, a Finance and French major, and Julia Sorkin, a Genetics major with a minor in Russian.  Honorable mention was awarded to Anabelle Accetta-Berman, a major in Criminal Justice and Linguistics; Marcus Cook, who is undeclared; William Hoover, a major in Spanish with minors in German and Linguistics; Helen Hopersky, a major in Chinese and Russian and minors in Music and Education; Deshik Iyengar, a major in French and Linguistics with a minor in Philosophy; Mallika Ravi, a major in Cell Biology and Neuroscience and Comparative Literature and a minor in Spanish; and Hiba Shaqra, a major in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry with minors in Arabic, Chemistry, and Math. Learn about these students and read their full essays in English and in translation, here

The Year of Languages Essay Prize competition, which took place in the first weeks of the Fall 2022 semester across dozens of language courses in the School of Arts and Sciences, would not have been possible without the committed participation of hundreds of Rutgers undergraduates who engaged in thoughtful conversations and without the commitment and expertise of our instructors, language coordinators, undergraduate program directors, chairs, and staff in eight Humanities departments.  I am grateful to them and to the generous and timely support of the excellent teams in The Language Center, SAS Communications and Marketing, and the Dean of Humanities office, who worked together to move the initiative forward.  For launching, designing, and implementing the Essay Prize competition, we are indebted to Professor Preetha Mani, who chaired the faculty selection committee, and Professor Doaa Rashed, Director of the Language Engagement Project, for their superb leadership.  Finally, I would like to acknowledge the substantial work and expertise of the faculty selection committee members, Professors François Cornillat, Allan Punzalan Isaac, Jorge Marcone, Tom Stephens, and Jenny Yuan-Chen Yang.  Many thanks, all.

Please take a few moments to find out more about why our students across the disciplines are learning languages, and please join me in congratulating our essay prize winners and honorable mentions.  They eloquently and creatively express a keen understanding of the role that language education and language engagement play in their individual lives and in our communities.  


Rebecca Walkowitz

Dean of Humanities

Distinguished Professor