Majoring in Linguistics to help transform the world into a better place for all

Is there something that makes your heart leap? Is there something that gets your blood pumping? Is there something you could do all day and be completely satisfied? For me, that something is language. Now, I don’t mean just the words and grammar of languages, but rather the communication, self-expression, and transformation that comes as a result of different languages. I was a shy child, so shy that I ran out of the room during the nativity play at my church because I was so nervous…and I was Mary!

I learned to find my voice as I grew. I learned to use words to express myself. I learned how powerful words can be. But my growth didn’t stop there. Soon I discovered that there were different languages that used different words to convey different concepts. I took Spanish classes in high school but wanted to dive deeper, so I completed an internship at a Mexican Bakery in my town. I also went on several service trips and even served as an interpreter during a few of those trips.

These experiences nourished my love for language and culture, and inspired my decision to double major as an undergraduate student – Spanish and Intercultural Studies. Upon graduation, I took a job at a nonprofit in Beijing, China, training Chinese English teachers. There my love of teaching blossomed. Now I’m about to start a graduate program in applied linguistics, which conveniently combines all my passions into one program.

Getting to this point in my academic career hasn’t been easy. Coming from a low-income family, I’ve learned to be content with very little. I’ve also learned to work very hard for the things that are important for me. Both of those lessons came in handy during my undergraduate studies. While I received a good deal of scholarship money, it wasn’t enough to pay for everything, so I learned how to sacrifice. I counted the opportunity costs and gave things up in order to pay for school. I also worked several jobs in order to graduate with no debt.

At my university, there were few Spanish-speakers, so I learned to overcome this obstacle to my language learning by searching the community and other resources for opportunities to love and serve others using my skills. I also taught myself Mandarin while I was in China in my spare time since I had such a deep desire to learn and communicate with those around me.

Just like everyone has some sort of passion, I believe everyone also has a dream. Graduating with this degree in applied linguistics will open innumerable doors to explore the world I have been living in. This degree means that I have worked hard enough to gain the opportunity to continue my learning and to share that learning with others, using language and teaching as tools of transformation. I’m beyond thrilled to start this applied linguistics program, developing into a trainer and communicator that helps transform the world into a better place for all.

We are proud to announce Laurel Dispenza is one of the current LatPro Scholarship finalists. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column) and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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  • Laurel, you are awesome! So well spoken, and just an amazing person all around. I know you will do well!

  • Laurel deserves this scholarship more than anyone applying! I met Laurel during her undergraduate studies at Beggars Pizza, where we both worked! She spoke and practiced her Spanish with all of the cooks and told me about her studies, which inspired me to minor in Spanish! She also brought me to a Spanish speaking church and interpreted everything for me! It’s obvious how hardworking and dedicated she is, just by what she accomplished already in her life! I can’t wait to see what’s to come!

  • Wow Laurel! This sounds like an AWESOME time in your life. I can see the passion you have after reading your essay, and the hard work you are willing to put into this stage in your life. Best of luck to you my friend!

  • Laurel,
    You are such an inspiration, and it is clear to see how your hard work and compassion allow you to touch people’s lives so deeply!

  • Thoughtful and passionate essay by a passionate and thoughtful woman. I hope you get the opportunities your searching for. The world can use someone like you.

  • Laurel has always been the hardest worker. It is rare that someome has both ability and determination. Laurel has a lot of both. She has already made the world a better place – more resources will allow her to continue and improve that work.

  • This is so well written laurel! I’m so proud of you and hope you continue to live your dreams! P.s. I still remember your graduation speech from high school about bicycle and glad it was you up there rather than anyone else.

  • Laurel Dispensa was one of the most exceptional students I have ever taught, and I have been teaching for over 35 years. Not only was she at the top of her graduating class, she is one of the kindest, warmest, most wonderful people I know. She brings joy to everyone around her. She is very deserving of your scholarship.

  • This is wonderful Laurel! I’m excited to see how many languages you will learn in your lifetime! So inspiring!!

  • Love your spirit and your passion! Like a lot your words here. Meeting you was just amazing! Good luck

  • Laurel it was such a privilege to Meet you the Day I Did! You are such a vibrant woman! With Great ambitions to Change this World. Your always looking for the missing pieces to this grand puzzle of life. You Genuinely care. It’s a Honor and Privilege to call you my Friend! I know you will Succeed! You have a Gift tap into it and unleash More Good to this world!
    P.s Rooting for you!

  • I have been on the receiving end of Laurel’s communication skills! While visiting in China, I was amazed (and thankful!) for her ability to communicate with those around is… not just to get something that we needed (like directions or a good deal on produce) but to see the way that she engaged the person she was conversing with. It is truly a joy to see Laurel use her gifts and abilities in language to communicate WELL, no matter what the particular language is.

  • Laurel is really gifted in language. Whenever she has free time, she always dives into learning language. Hope she can get the chance.

  • Laurel is one of awesome foreigner in Beijing I’ve met. She is nice and kind and diligent.The theme of this essay is great,very thoughtful. With all my wishes.

  • Laurel, you’re warm-hearted and lovely. It is great to talk with you . especially your class makes me relax and comfortable. It brings me pleasure and teaching skills. unforgettable to spend the winter holiday with you in 2015.After reading it, I believe you can do well in whatever you like to and i hope you can make it come true.

  • I’ve been witness of the passion Laurel has when we speak in Spanish, it’s so evident that she really push herself to learn a languages because when we speak its really fluent and we use the local jargon.
    Laurel is definitely the person for linguistics

  • I met Laurel in China and she is an amazing person! Her Spanish is awesome too! She deserves this scholarship because I know she’ll take full advantage of it.

  • Laurel, your hard working and passion will lead you to a brand new life which is full of explorations and challenges. It will insure you to reach a higher level in your learning of languages. Hope you doing well.

  • Laurel, your story encourages me! You are an amazing girl! Hope everything goes well and your dream will come true!

  • Laurel is da Actually on a serious note though, huge kudos to you for working so hard and paving the way for yourself. Incredibly well-worded essay. You deserve this scholarship.

  • I’m a teacher trained by Laurel in GuiZhou province, China. So far as I know, she is a good teacher, a good friend. Now I know she is a good student in linguistic. She tried all she could to achieve what she want as she taught me. As she said she sacrificed the things that most of us think it is commend. What I’ve learned from her is you should have a heart and dream when you live. To achieve it you must believe it Go get it Laurel!!!!

  • laurel! I’m so proud of you and hope you continue to live your dreams! is veis very good and applied student. I wish all the best to you. Laurel

  • Laurel,
    I still remember the days we were at TIP in Tianjin. It’s the best time Ihave experienced in training.You encouraged me a lot and taught me lots of skills in teaching. I am very glad you will walk towards a new step to help others. Good luck , my friend!

  • Laurel, so excited for the journey you are on! I remember your kindness and support from my summer in Beijing. Blessings to you!

  • Laurel, your passion for others is amazing! You are such a sweet and generous person, always willing to help out and lift others up. You are so deserving of this scholarship, and I pray you get it! Good luck, sweet friend! This sounds like an amazing opportunity! =]

  • Laurel, I’ve always been encouraged and inspired by your love for people and your desire to experience/learn about different cultures. In my eyes, you’ve already changed the world more than most people that I know. Good luck with this next chapter of life! 🙂

  • Laurel, this is a wonderful message. It’s been great knowing you and working with you in China. Your Mandarin language skills were always useful to those of us that are unilingual. You deserve the scholarship and I hope and pray that you get it.

  • You are a good language facilitator!Full of teaching passion!I’m impressed by your cheerful disposition!I hope you will win the scholarship!

  • I have had several conversations with Laurel about her hopes and dreams. God has given her a gift of learning to read and speak different languages. I know with God’s help she will expand her language skills and become a teacher someday. I highly recommend Laurel for this scholarship.

  • I know for a fact how passionate, smart, talented and deserving Laurel is. Many blessings on your next steps forward!

  • Laurel, I am so proud of you! You have such an amazing heart and passion for serving Christ. Will be praying for your next journey in life.

  • Laurel I think you deserve this scholarship.You are the best language facilitator that I ever seen.You make me be confident in communicating.Teaching many knowledges to me.Both of these change me a lot.So take it easy you will come true you dream!It is absolutely!

  • July6, 2017
    After reading your essay, your experience made
    me very touched, I believe you must be successful.
    Good luck with you!

  • Anybody can learn languages, but not everybody will use that skill to do good. If I could think of one person in the world who would best utilize their knowledge and make a difference, it would undoubtedly be Laurel.

  • I wish you all the best Laurel! It’s inspiring to see you so fiercely follow your passion.

  • I met Laurel while she was on a service trip to Panama where I was working at the time. She had a true passion to get to know people in the community and connect with them in their own language. I can think of no one more worthy of this scholarship.

  • I am so excited for Laurel and her love for others. It is awesome to watch her as she reaches for her dreams.

  • My friend Laurel is an amazingly talented person in linguistics! Her passion for learning and teaching has always impressed me and also has helped me try to pick up a second language myself! Thanks for the inspiration Laurel! Best of luck!

  • Laurel came to observe my tutoring session in China, and reading her well-written essay I could see that her coming to see me was part of her 110% enthusiasm for learning and communication. Laurel sounds like she would definitely make good use of every penny if she were to win this scholarship.

  • Laurel embodies passion for language, going out of her way to immerse herself in another culture and language by going abroad for months and years. But more than that, she has a passion to understand people. She definitely deserves this!

  • I met Laurel in Costa Rica like 2 years ago, we’ve been friends since then, she talks spanish very well, she always trying to learn more. She is also very friendly and trustworthy.
    Is always willing to help people.
    I know she deserves this.

  • What a wonderful person Laurel is! She was such an inspiring student at Lake James Christian Assembly!

  • Laurel!! You are so talented and blessed with a mind for languages! I hope you get the scholarship!! You would be a gift to any organization or program. No matter what, God loves you and lead you to whatever is best!

  • Excellent writing Laurel. Your passion for languages shines brightly through your essay! I expect you will get this scholarship.

  • Laurel, its really great to have you as the teacher to share language and arts to kids. With the passion and love to culture communition, you could go further. Wish u get the scholarship and all the best!

  • During her study abroad a few years ago, Laurel showed me and my friend all around costa rica. That included helping us order food in spanish, helping us figure out accommodation, Tica Bus info, what to eat, and how to stay smart in San Jose. She also took us to Puerto Viejo, and rode with us all the way there and back to San Jose. Her knowledge of the language and culture was so impressive and her love for the people and language were obvious. We were there during the time when the Costa Rica national team was in the World Cup quarter finals and she took us out to see the celebration when they beat argentina. She was always up for any adventure and never was shy about practicing and learning the language. There probably isn’t a better person to deserve this scholarship, and my friend and I now call her an honarary Tico (I know it’s the male form, but I don’t know the female form).

    Laurel helped us to fall in love with costa rica, and I went back a second time without her and it wasn’t the same.

  • Well said Laurel. We’re so proud of everything you have accomplished! Your so smart, talented, and driven to serve God. Your vision and actions to make the world a better place are inspiring.