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The Humanities at UAlbany Opened Up the World for Doctoral Student

UAlbany students have a wide range of summer internships, research and study abroad opportunities. Doctoral student Ben Mielenz, shown just before he left to spend the summer in Turkey on a full Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. (Photo by Mark Schmidt) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 23, 2015) -- University at Albany doctoral student Ben Mielenz never believed he would go to college. “I thought that school was for reading, and that life was for living. I wanted real experience,” said Mielenz, 34, who is in Turkey this summer on a full Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.

This summer he plans to learn more about Ladino, a language that combines the grammar of Spanish with the lexicon of Turkish. It is a contact language that began to evolve when the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. During their mass migration around the Mediterranean, many settled down and developed Sephardic communities in modern-day Turkey.

Ben Mielenz's experience in Turkey is just one of the exciting opportunities available to UAlbany students this summer. Read about Kaitlyn Gulick's Fulbright experience in South Korea here. Share your experience by posting your internship, research, study abroad or volunteer work photo to Twitter or Instagram using #UAlbanySummer by Aug. 3, 2015, for a chance to win a gift card. Be sure to include your name, class year, position and company/location.

A doctoral student in Spanish Linguistics who finished his undergraduate studies at UAlbany in December 2012 with a cumulative 4.0, Mielenz had previously worked in retail and restaurant positions. But after a year in Malawi in Southeast Africa volunteering with an HIV/AIDS social outreach project, he realized a more formal education was needed for him to reach his service-oriented goals. After graduating from UAlbany, he worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Colombia.

“I returned to UAlbany for graduate school in the fall of 2014 because I consider it to be home,” said Mielenz, who is originally from Washington, D.C. “I moved around a lot as a kid, and so having a place to put down roots is important to me now that I’m an adult. I’m part of a team with the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and that is a big part of what drew me back to campus.”

He served in 2014-2015 as a Graduate Student Senator, and as a member of the Graduate Academic Council and its subcommittee on Education Policy and Procedure. He also participated in the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students Legislative Action Days conference recently, where he lobbied on behalf of graduate student interests.

“The humanities at UAlbany have opened up the world to me, and I’m truly grateful. If you’re willing to work hard, to learn how to think critically, and to be a part of a team, you’ll see yourself become qualified for phenomenal opportunities that are available both near and far,” said Mielenz. “Find your niche, put down roots, and learn a foreign language. The Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures is offering Fall 2015 courses in Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, just to name a few of the options currently available on campus.”

Mielenz aspires to teach Spanish at the university level, to join the U.S. Foreign Service as a Consular Officer, and to advocate for national education policies that provide resources to students in native languages other than English.

“I am not completely sure where this will lead me, but if I’m willing to be surprised by what life brings my way, I’m probably going to be a lot more open to endeavors which I never would have conceived of for myself,” he said. “That freedom to be creative has been a game-changer in my life, and I am confident that it will continue to be.”

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than
120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.