Far from her hometown of Sheffield, U.K., and farther still from her country of origin, Slovenia, Athena ’24 grew up in a cultural intersection. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that this Commonwealth sophomore finds herself fascinated by languages to this day. She explored language acquisition in children for a recent Project Week undertaking. Keep reading to learn more about her initial findings and to get a snapshot of what being bilingual is like.
Getting to Know You
What is your favorite book (or a book you’ve re-read)?
I don’t think I could pick just one! Some of my favorite books are Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
What are your favorite comfort foods?
Trader Joe’s orange chicken and oatmeal with cinnamon.
What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)?
English. I have really enjoyed how Commonwealth encourages such close analysis of text, and I feel that I can appreciate literature much more. I like being challenged to expand my writing abilities. I particularly enjoyed studying Frankenstein this year because it was not my first time reading it, and I got much more out of it this time, including many instances of symbolism, often having to do with the natural world.
Pen or pencil?
Pencil because once I made the grave error of taking a math quiz in pen.
Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)
You recently completed a project exploring language acquisition in children: What were you most surprised to learn? Do you see yourself exploring this subject further?
What surprised me most was how big the field of linguistics is and its rapid expansion. I am definitely planning on pursuing this topic further, so I am going to talk to a couple of professors of linguistics to get advice about direction. I would like to study which parts of the brain are involved in different aspects of language acquisition because I am very interested in a career in medicine.
How does being multilingual impact how you think, write, and otherwise communicate?
The major impact on my communication is that I speak Slovenian at home and English at school. I do count primarily in Slovenian! My American sister-in-law has been learning Slovenian, and I’ve noticed how difficult it is to answer questions about grammar and syntax, since I never have had to actively think about such things. Overall, I would say I don’t quite know how being multilingual affects the way I think, as I cannot remember a time when this was not the case and thus have nothing to compare it to.
What was your first impression of Commonwealth and how has it mapped to your experience?
My first encounter with Commonwealth was through my brother Max, who came here for his senior year. I was only eight years old at the time, but I remember being fascinated by the distinctiveness of the classes he was taking, such as Constitutional Law, and Rise and Fall of Communism. Additionally, the size of the school appealed to me as well as its location in downtown Boston. I am really looking forward to taking some more specialized classes down the road, and it has been very fun exploring Boston.
How do you spend your time outside of Commonwealth?
I love reading, taking walks with my dog, and finding new spots for photography.
How has your Commonwealth experience colored the way you look at the world and plan for your future?
The classes have exposed me to the fact that each field and subfield of study is so vast, and I’m realizing how many different things I could study. The teachers here are all so passionate about their specialties that what we hear in class is beyond what we could ever learn from just reading a textbook, and those snippets are often the most interesting of all. Having an animated teacher truly makes learning the material much more exciting.
What’s your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth?
Even if you have a comment that is not necessarily the exact, narrow answer to a question, it’s worthwhile to speak up in class and offer a new perspective. Don’t be afraid to add to the conversation!