Gatepost Interview: Joanne Britland – Professor of Spanish and Portuguese

Leighah Beausoleil / THE GATEPOST

What is your professional and educational background?

I grew up in Virginia. In undergrad, I went to James Madison University, and I studied communications with a concentration in public relations and Spanish. In undergrad, I never really thought that I would be a Spanish teacher. I just loved the culture – the language. So, I did that as my second major. I always thought that I would go into a field with communication. After I graduated, I decided to do my master’s, in Spanish because I wanted to live in Spain, and so I did my master’s the first year abroad in Spain and I did [it] in Spanish. That’s when I really realized my love for the language and during my master’s I worked as a TA. So, I taught Spanish courses at the university level, and that’s when I had my first experience teaching and realized, “Oh, maybe I do like teaching a bit more than I thought.” But, after my master’s, I still wanted to live in Spain. … I returned to Spain and I lived there for another year in Madrid. I taught English at an elementary school, which was a really great experience, and kind of helped shape my knowledge even more and from a different perspective about Spanish culture – learning – really mastering the language. After that I moved to Brazil. I worked at an American school in Brazil, where I taught Spanish and English and then beginner Portuguese. I learned Portuguese and then I taught it there at the school for elementary-level students. So, my background leading up to before my Ph.D. had really been shaped by these experiences abroad and that’s when I realized – you know – I really love languages. I love the culture. I love literature. I wanted to do my Ph.D., and so I completed my Ph.D. at the University of Virginia. Then, I graduated and I was very lucky to have this job here at Framingham. 

What’s your favorite part about working with students?

That’s a tough question because I really love working with students. I enjoy the intellectual conversations that we have – not even intellectual, but just the conversations that we’re able to have – you know – teaching a language. I’m lucky here in Framingham. I can teach Spanish 101 all the way up to Spanish 400 where we’re teaching film and literature, and we’re learning a language. So, our classes are supposed to be focused on conversation and interaction and just having really enlightening conversations with students is one thing. Being able to help students as they figure out what they want to do for their careers – in life – just being able to have a role in that process. 

What would students be surprised to know about you?

I was really scared the first time that I studied abroad in Spain, and wanted to go home. It was the first time that I had been abroad, and it was just the culture shock and the food was different – everything was different. My parents of course wouldn’t let me. … We paid for it. I think that’s something important to know – that it’s a scary thing to study abroad and a lot of students might be hesitant to do it. I was scared, too. 

What are your hobbies?

I love running – working out. I ran cross country in undergrad at James Madison University. So, that’s always been one of my passions. Just running, spending time with friends, and traveling, which is what led me to this. 

What advice do you have for FSU students?

I would say to learn how to think, right? You’re here to learn how to think and examine ideas and be able to apply that in the real world. I think that’s important no matter what your major is because, like I just told you, I never thought that I would be a Spanish professor. But I had studied Spanish, and then I had studied communications and thought I would be working in public relations or marketing. I was able to take that knowledge and apply it somewhere else because I learned how to think. I think that’s something that’s really important. You’re here and it’s so important to get your degree, and no one can take that away from you and then you can use that to do whatever you want. 

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