"I’ve always been fascinated by the books, the visual and graphic arts, the philosophy, and the ideas that have come out of Germany. When I got to Stanford, I realized that to better understand all of these things, and to become involved with them, I needed to learn the language and learn the culture. That’s why I chose to become a German major. I needed both a technical background and a firm grounding in the humanities, and that wouldn’t have been provided in a purely technical or idea-generative discipline. Studying abroad in Berlin was a significant experience for me because it really allowed me to re-examine everything I considered 'familiar,' or took for granted.
Now that I’ve graduated, I’m going to be in the tech industry, and it’s going to be incredibly valuable to have studied German. Studying German culture and the Humanities, overall, really keeps you more in touch with social and cultural currents, both contemporary historical, which I think is essential for thinking about the future. It’s so much more interesting to have something other than just a technology-focused background, but to have something else there -- something deeper, something more in touch with history, culture, philosophy and critical ways of thinking. I think those are all encapsulated in a German major and German Studies, or in any of the Humanities, and it’s a really beneficial and interesting differentiating factor for me. I appreciate that I have that under my belt."
During his third year at Stanford, Justin studied abroad in Berlin through the Bing Overseas Program. Since graduating, he has accepted a position as a Visual Experience Designer at Intuit. He has also worked at Samsung as a Design and Lifestyle Researcher, and continues to explore the tech industry.
"One of the most amazing things about Stanford is the way that it really affirms every individual’s journey. I found that when I came to Stanford, I started exploring and studying things that I never anticipated that I would be studying. I didn’t come into Stanford expecting to study Russian Literature. What I found was that, no matter what journeys we were taking, the University and the faculty opened up huge opportunities in front of us to pursue those things. Not just that, but they encouraged us to explore and find whatever that person was that we wanted to become.
Today, I work at a start-up in Silicon Valley called Juntos Finanzas. We make personal financial management tools for cash-based households in developing countries around the world. I feel that the work that I did in literature informs my work today just as much as the economics. When you can bring them together, there’s a lot of powerful things that happen in terms of how you think about problem solving. I think we are lucky in that we get trained to be very aware of the invisible stories that are going on in individuals and society through culture, by combining both Humanities and Social Sciences with quantitative approaches. I mean, culture is a set of stories that we have about the world, being very attuned to what those stories are, and knowing which stories that people really want to feel.
The Language and Literature work that I did in the Slavic Department transformed the way that I was able to see the world. I became much more aware of the invisible stories that constantly are present in ourselves, in the way that we think about ourselves, and in the way that we think about the world around us. These things directly fed into the product innovation that my company does today. I have never been happier than in the time that I was at Stanford. When I think about it, even after all these years, I can’t believe that a place like Stanford exists. It is a miraculous place."
Ben Knelman is the CEO and co-founder of Juntos Finanzas, a Silicon Valley startup that makes personal financial management tools for developing countries around the world. During his studies at Stanford, he traveled to Moscow through the Bing Overseas Program.
"The DLCL is unique in that it affords students the opportunity not only to master a foreign language, but also to immerse themselves in the rich history of that language, the culture and traditions of its speakers, and the native cadence of its master works of literature, which cannot be captured in translation. I loved being a Spanish major in college because I was able to improve my Spanish grammar and broaden my Spanish vocabulary while simultaneously learning history, geography, anthropology, and ecology. While at Stanford, I was consistently impressed by the depth and the breadth of information I was being taught by my amazing professors in the DLCL, and to this day I continue to marvel at my good fortune in having been part of such a remarkable program.
While it may seem incongruous that a Spanish major opted to enter the medical profession, the education I obtained through the DLCL has served me well as a medical student. As a medical professional in a wildly diverse country, the possession of ‘cultural competence’ is highly valued. My educational background trained me well in a similar realm; that of cultural humility. I am primed to understand patients as complex individuals whose attitudes towards health and health care are inextricably linked to their religious beliefs, their experiences with traditional healers and complementary and alternative medicine, and the history of health care delivery in their countries of origin, among an infinite number of other things. I understand that Western medicine is imbued with a culture of its own, and that working with patients towards the common goal of improving their health helps bridge the cultural differences that may exist in understanding the etiology and the treatment of a specific disease process. I believe this sensibility will make me a more empathic physician.
I currently find myself in the middle of my third year of medical school at Cornell, rotating through each of the seven major clinical disciplines, trying to determine which path will lead me towards a fulfilling career in which I am best able to integrate my diverse interests in service of medicine’s most vulnerable populations. Wherever the road may lead in the future, I am confident that Stanford and the DLCL have played an integral role in determining its direction."
Carmen completed both B.A. in Spanish and an M.A. in Sociology through Stanford's co-term program. A long time athlete, and a member of Stanford's diving team, Carmen received an NCAA All-American title during her third year at Stanford. After receiving a Fulbright Scholarship, she spent a year in Bogotá, Colombia to pursue her interest in the medical field. Currently, she a medical student enrolled at Cornell, where she also acts as Executive Director of the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights (WCCHR).
"My experience in the DLCL gave me an incredible framework for understanding not only global literature, but its social and political contexts. Furthermore, the DLCL's holistic approach to intellectual engagement put me in discourse with students and professors from many different specialized areas of study, creating a dialogue that was deeply enriching.
Not only did I come to understand ‘modernity’ as an inherently fluid and relative concept, but I was encouraged to consider multiple perspectives simultaneously, and to see literature and philosophy as true and essential reflections of the world. This was in every way representative of my experience in the DLCL - deep engagement with my brilliant professors and peers (and did I mention how small DLCL classes are? Everyone knows each other well, and it makes our discussions that much more enjoyable).
While at Stanford, I was an academic research assistant and a tour guide, and I spent consecutive summers studying in Mexico City and Salvador, in the Brazilian state of Bahia. Since graduation, I have lived in Los Angeles, navigating the world of entertainment. Everyone I meet
professionally is fascinated by my degree - it's a great conversation piece. But even more than that, my degree helped facilitate my intellectual and professional growth post-college. The unique insights I gained through studying in the DLCL have enhanced everything I do."
A Palo Alto native, Jenna graduated from Stanford in 2009 with both university-wide distinction and departmental honors. Her senior thesis garnered the 2008 Robert M. Golden Medal for Excellence in the Humanities and Creative Arts. She now works in Los Angeles as a writer for television and as an editor for novels.