31% of executives speak two languages. An additional 20% speak three languages. 9% speak four languages and 4% speak more than four.1
BANKING: Knowing a foreign language is important in finance, especially in the international banking industry. Ms. Jasmine Harrell, who graduated from ECU with a BA in French in 2006, currently works for an international private equity firm in Washington, D.C. She explains that French is very useful when dealing with French-speaking investors.
AIRLINES: ECU foreign language graduates have gone on to work for Pan Am, United Airlines, US Airways, and Piedmont Airlines. From translating for passengers, to working with security, the airline industry needs employees who speak foreign languages. Mrs. Carole Hall, who graduated in 1962 with a BA in Spanish, used her Spanish language "on a daily basis with foreign passengers on the flights and in the countries we travelled. My ability to speak Spanish was instrumental in my receiving a job with Pan Am."
HOSPITALITY: Whether you want to open a Bed & Breakfast, a restaurant, or a hotel, foreign languages will help you connect with customers. Steven Ryce graduated with a BS in Spanish with a Minor in business administration. He currently is the owner and operator of Yellow Submarine Restaurant in Nags Head NC, where he explains that foreign language skills have enhanced his business. "Foreign language skills have improved the quality of my life by giving me the ability to communicate with more people and understand their many interesting differences. I continue to enjoy learning about other cultures from the people I employ. I host about 10-20 students from foreign countries from March till October every year for seasonal help. I hire these students during their breaks from their respective universities… My background in foreign language plays a significant role in my communication with employees from the interview process through their stay here; after they have left I still keep up with several of them on Facebook." Similarly, Phillip Edwards (BS in French with a minor in International Studies, 1996), who works for The Country Vinter, uses his knowledge of French to generate business. "My decision to study French at ECU has played an integral part in shaping my life both professionally and personally... In 1999, I returned to France to do an MBA at the E.S.C in Grenoble, and by the late 2000s I was the Regional Sales Manager for a French Wine importer back in the U.S. When that company sold at the end of 2010, I wound up doing a brief stint at the French Embassy Trade Office in New York City as their Lead Wine & Spirits Trade Analyst, and finally landed in Richmond, Virginia with my current position.
Bosch, Texaco, United Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, International Private Equity firms, Real-estate, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment...
NURSING: The ECU School of Medicine hires our students and graduates to interpret their patients' needs. This is what Mr. Paul Terry did as a student in the Foreign Languages Department before graduating with a BA in Hispanic Studies in 2004. Mr. David Owen, who graduated in 1978 with a BS in French, is currently a registered nurse at Emory University Hospital. For Mr. Owen, knowledge of a foreign language has been pivotal: "I use my languages every day."
TECHNOLOGY: After receiving a BA in Hispanic Studies, one of our recent graduates went on to get a degree in radiography and is currently an X-ray technologist at Duke University Medical Center. He says that his Spanish skills have helped him enter the radiography program and get hired for jobs. "Nearly every interview I've had, my bilingual skills have been discussed and admired. I would say the last 3 out of 4 jobs I was hired for were based on the fact that I speak Spanish."
CLINICAL: A variety of clinical settings need foreign language speakers. This is why Ms. Jessica Pendergrass, who graduated with a BA in Hispanic Studies and a BS in Biology in 2011, is currently in graduate school for podiatric medicine. She has already worked as a Spanish-English interpreter in the clinical setting of the Foot Center of New York.
PHARMACEUTICALS: Some of the largest pharmaceutical companies are located in Switzerland, Germany and France, which means that a degree in German or French is extremely useful for anyone connected with this industry.
Physician, Nursing, Diagnostic technology, Pharmaceuticals
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Many of our graduates go on to serve local communities. Foreign Language and Literature graduate Amber Bone, Hispanic Studies Education Major '11, is currently teaching elementary school in Franklin County. She says, "Studying Spanish played a very influential role in my life and career. As I tell my students daily, studying another language and culture opens unbelievable opportunities." High School: Teaching at the high school level is also an option for our graduates. A significant number of Foreign Language and Literature Alumni have enjoyed long teaching careers. Mrs. Carol Kross, French Education Major, '69, is still teaching French. She says, "Teaching French has provided me a lifetime of enjoyment. Watching students use their acquired language in real country experiences is thrilling." Mrs. Kathryn Warren Elliot, who graduated with a BS in Hispanic Studies, currently teaches Spanish in the Wake County public school system. She writes that studying abroad as an undergrad in Costa Rica changed her life. "Not only did I learn a lot of Spanish, but I became more independent and learned a lot about myself and my abilities... It was an amazing time! More recently I have had the opportunity to take students to Spain to study abroad for a month at a time. It is very satisfying to watch them learn, use and enjoy Spanish as much as I have!!"
COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Ms. Marta Culton, French Education Major, '69, was a full-time high school teacher for 31 years in addition to teaching part-time at Craven Community College for 7 years. Mrs. Margaret Stephens, Spanish BA, '82, is currently World Language Department Chair at Rosemont School of the Holy Child, but has taught at Black Hawk Community College and at other various schools.
UNIVERSITY: Although Dr. Paul Popov, was a French and Spanish major at ECU, he went on to receive a Ph.D. in Slavic Linguistics and Philology in 1969 from New York University and is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia. He retired from a lengthy career of teaching Russian language, literature, culture and linguistics at UGA in 2001.
UNIVERSITY STUDY ABROAD PROGRAMS: Having an undergraduate degree in a foreign language is an important skill when directing or coordinating study abroad programs. Amanda McCorkle Laird (1992, BS in French), who has worked as Associate Director of the Office of International Programs at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC-CH, now works for WorldStrides, an organization that helps colleges and universities facilitate short-term and faculty-led international study programs. Ms. Laird explains that success at her job is due to knowledge of foreign languages and an appreciation for foreign cultures. "Without that understanding and excitement about learning more about other cultures, I could never have become successful at any of my jobs."
Teaching all levels (elementary school, high school, university), ESL, Study Abroad Programs, University Administration, Library Sciences...
Masters in Diplomacy & International Relations: Our students are accepted into various kinds of graduate degree programs like the MA in International Studies at ECU, the MA in International Studies at NC State, the Master's Degree in Diplomacy and International Relations Program at the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. Ms. Ekaterina Kiseleva, German BA, pursued an MA in International Studies and Economic Development at ECU. She writes, "I can tell that foreign languages are my ticket to the world."
MA & PhD in Languages: Many of our students chose to continue their language studies. We have graduates who have received MAs in foreign languages from George Mason University, and PhDs from New York University.
Masters of Divinity: We also have students who enter into Divinity programs. Ms. Carmen Gonzalez, Hispanic Studies Major '09, is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Duke University. She says, "I wouldn’t be the same person – my knowledge of Spanish/Hispanic Studies will be crucial in my future life as pastor/missionary."
Masters in Diplomacy & International Relations, PhD in Education, Masters of Divinity...
MILITARY: Some of our graduates know several languages. This is the case with Mr. James Willoughby, who graduated in 1982 with a BA in French and Spanish. After a successful career in the military, he is currently teaching ESOL, but credits his dual language degree and knowledge of Russian for much of his success. "In the military, I held jobs requiring proficiency in French, Spanish and Russian. I received extra pay for being proficient even when now working in a language designated position. After military retirement, I worked as a French and Spanish teacher. Almost every job I have held was due to my foreign language skills."
PEACE CORPS: A number of our graduates go on to work for the Peace Corps. Some of our students, like Ms. Donna Salles Colan, go immediately after graduation. Ms. Colan left for Puerto Rico and then Guatemala in 1969 a few weeks after graduation. Others, like Mr. Blaine Winford, go first to graduate school. After receiving a BA in Hispanic Studies at ECU, Mr. Winford continued to study Spanish and received his MA in 2011 from UNC-Greensboro. He left to work for the Peace Corps in Ecuador in January 2012 and hopes to pursue a higher degree Latin American and Caribbean cultures and languages when he returns.
GOVERNMENT: Working for the government at any level can require the use of a foreign language. Working at the local level can be especially rewarding. A graduate from 1994 with a BS in Spanish currently works for the City of Durham. Some of his duties necessitate the use of Spanish to serve the Hispanic/Latino community.
NASA, Peace Corps, Military, City Government Interpreter, Medical Interpreter...
93.9% of respondents were admitted to grad school or found work; 58% in fields related to Foreign Language. 87.8% rate foreign language as integral to their job or use it often. 70% felt it gave them a competitive advantage.
The Department conducted a survey of 85 graduates of the BA and BS degrees in modern languages, as well as the Classical and Russian Studies interdisciplinary majors. Of the 33 respondents: 11 had gone to graduate school, 15 had gone into the workforce, 5 had done both and 2 had done neither.
Attending graduate school: 38% were accepted into a field related to their foreign language education; 62% were accepted into an unrelated field. 31% are going into K-12 education; 6% want to work at a community college; 12% want to become university professors; 25% are considering law, medicine, banking or government; and 31% are going into accounting, library science, historic preservation, divinity school or public health.
Entering the workforce: 70% found employment in a field related to foreign language; 30% found employment in an unrelated field. 45% are working in K-12 education; 10% are working as translators; 5% in literature or a writing-related field such as journalism and publishing; 20% are working in law, medicine, banking and government; and 20% are working in commercial real estate, biological science or public health.
Importance of Foreign Language to their jobs: 42% rated their foreign language education as an integral part of what they do; 45% use it fairly often as a complement to what they do; of the remaining portion, 9% thought it gave them a good education but are doing something different now; and only one person (3%) said it had not be useful or helpful.
Advantage of foreign language study: Of those who attended graduate school, 44% said that their preparation had made them stand out among their peers; 38% said it had made them better prepared than peers; 12% said it had made them competitive / average among peers, and none said they felt at a competitive disadvantage; one chose not to answer. Of those entering the workforce, 30% felt their education made them stand out among peers, 35% felt it made them better prepared than peers; 25% felt it made them competitive / average; 5% felt it put them at a disadvantage and 5% felt it made them unprepared.
Journalism, Novelist, Law, Agriculture... See the results of our Alumni survey
Students looking for resources on international jobs should consult The Riley Guide