Name: Roxanne Radi
Year: Class of 2010
Hometown: Houston, TX
Looking back, I’m not sure exactly how I got to this point, but I am sure the journey has been incredible, and looking ahead,what I have in store is even more exciting. Becoming a Latin American Studies major, for me, was something of an impulse decision: fall of freshman year my favourite class was Intro to Latin American Studies, so I somewhat haphazardly decided to go with it and see what happened.
And I haven’t looked back since.
As far as I’m concerned, PLAS (Program in Latin American Studies) is one of the most accommodating an fantastically applicable majors on the Homewood campus. Focused on “building interdisciplinary understanding…of the cultures, societies, and politics of countries in Latin America and the Carribean,” you’d be hard pressed to find a major that PLAS does not compliment and enhance. Personally, I’ve chosen to focus on Latin American Studies as a way to understand the social and political factors that can affect a population’s health care. This semester, I am studying abroad in Chile in a program which offers a health care rotational internship which is offering me the unique opportunity to study a country in the process of re-nationalizing a privatized health care system. Studying what has and hasn’t worked for Chileans will, I hope, help me understand the changes that are and will occur in my own health care system.
Plus, if I have my way, I’d love to get out of medical school and do something like Doctors Without Borders.
But Public Health and medicine are not the only interests that mesh with this multifaceted major. I know of people ranging from International Relations majors who are concentrating their studies on Latin America to Writing Seminar majors who are particularily interested in Latin American literature. But don’t let me diminish being a purely Latin American Studies major! Look at the courses listed any semester and you’ll be amazed at how many PLAS courses are cross listed in other departments: Sociology, Anthropology, Africana Studies, History, History of Art, Political Science, Latin American Studies majors can be sure they will receive a well rounded education rich in cultural and linguistic studies.
Outside of the classroom, PLAS also partners with numerous student groups, in addition to hosting roundtable colloquiums where they invite speakers (like the Guatemala Human Rights Organization). Three summer programs are offered yearly to Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina, where Johns Hopkins undergraduates get to take classes at Latin American universities, stay with local families, and really immerse in the cultures they’ve been studying in the classroom.
There are also Study Abroad Programs for the semester that many students take advantage of to countries ranging from Spain to Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Chile, or really any Latin American country. If you have a particular interest and have specific research you’re interested in (I’ve even heard of someone studying beisbol in Latin America!), the faculty is incredibly supportive and accommodating in helping you shape your educational experience.
Or you could stay in the country and volunteer to work with the Latin American community in Baltimore. OLE (Organization of Latin Students) hosts a number of programs where Johns Hopkins undergraduates volunteer with high school students in the surrounding Baltimore school districts, helping them with their homework, or learning English, or even just being there as a positive role model. Or there are prorams like Salud, which participates in health fairs all over the city, helping to spread information to the Spanish speaking Latin American community. If you want a more hands on experience, there are also Programs like Public Health, where volunteers work at a clinic with a largely hispanic population and help those clients secure services like Food Stamps and Energy Assistance so they can better care for their children.
The requirements for the major are spelt out on the program website: http://anthropology.jhu.edu/plas/undergrad.htmland if you have special circumstances, like transfer credits from study abroad or what have you, the advisors are very approachable and available to those who want to complete the degree. Basically you have to take the Intro to Latin American Studies course, either Spanish or Portuguese, and 5 upper level courses related to Latin America, not half bad.
En fin, I’m fairly certain I can’t say enough good things about the PLAS program. At first, I was worried that I, a non-latina, would be awkward in a major that studied Latin American culture, but happily I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, the classes in this series are a fantastic way for people of hispanic decent to learn more about the culture and history of America del Sur, but at the same time, it gives people like me, without a drop of Latin American blood, a very unique lense with which to study my own heritage. Learning how to study the Latin American diaspora in the United States is equally pertain-able to diasporas of other cultural groups, and through studying the history of Latin America and personally coming into contact with an illegal alien and trying to help her navigate our stange and convoluted system has given me a new appreciation for how lucky I am to have the education and opportunities I do.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Latin American Studies question thread._______________________________________________________________________________