Spanish-Portuguese Pre Grad Intern Stephanie Davidson

Stephanie Davidson
Intellectual Entrepreneurship Internship Final Reflections

This semester for the Intellectual Entrepreneurship internship I undertook a Spanish sociolinguistics research project. I interned with Thomas Leslie, a graduate student from the Spanish and Portuguese department. My main goal in undertaking this internship was to understand the daily workings and procedures of being a graduate student, the process of working on a research project, and learn about the skills needed to be a successful graduate student.

Through the course of the Spring semester my mentor, Thomas Leslie, was working on a paper and presentation on the palatalization of /ʝ/ in Spanish in Medellín, Colombia. Prior to my experience with the Intellectual Entrepreneurship internship I had not undertaken any level of formal research. Since I am a double major in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures and Linguistics I was interested in doing research in a field related to linguistics, and since Spanish is my native language I have been interested in working with it at a university level. Working with Thomas presented the perfect opportunity to combine my multiple interests and I consider myself extremely fortunate in that Thomas allowed me and encouraged me to get involved in every way possible.

For the initial part of the semester I started out with various readings. Although at times the readings could be tedious, I did ultimately see how the reading helped in acquiring necessary background knowledge. Through the course of the readings I also realized how vital it is to be well read on your subject and to go through proper literature review.

The second part of the internship involved analyzing and coding data. This part was the most interesting to me because it was the point at which I felt most involved. It was also the most hands on part of the internship. The analyzing and coding involved listening to a corpus of linguistic interviews and finding all tokens of variance in the /ʝ/ phoneme. Afterwards these tokens were analyzed by position in the word, whether it was assibilated or unassibilated, whether it was post-tonic, pre-tonic, or on the tonic. Various aspects of the speakers were also take into consideration. For the speakers, education, gender, and age were analyzed. This part of the project definitely took the longest, but it was also the most exciting part since this was the most hands on and busiest part of the semester. However, it helped me realize the amount of work necessary in order to have enough information to produce a successful paper.

The third and final part was preparing the data and writing the paper, as well as putting a presentation together. While I did not take a huge role in this step, observing the process of making a powerpoint and presenting to multiple groups and people definitely put the whole project in perspective. One of my favorite parts of participating in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship internship was being able to see the process of writing a paper and presenting the research at a conference from start to finish.

Additionally, I was able to attend a graduate seminar on a weekly basis. Initially I was overwhelmed by the idea of attending a three hour course from five o’clock to eight o’clock in the evening. However, I am extremely grateful to my mentor and his professor for allowing me to attend and observe the seminar. Attending the seminar gave me insight to what daily life as a graduate student is like, and what to expect from graduate level courses. The seminar itself was extremely interesting and I enjoyed that it had a different and varied format. A normal seminar session generally consisted of a student presenting on a topic, or groups of students presenting an assigned project. The second half of the seminar usually involved skyping a linguistics professor and researcher and discussing a paper they had written.

At the end of the semester I attended a Spanish sociolinguistics conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Through the course of three days I attended presentations about bilingualism, language variation, language contact, sociophonetics, and various topics within the field of sociolinguistics. This conference excited me and motivated me; it gave me a sense of the rewards of doing research. Admittedly, I felt anxious about going to the conference since I was the only undergraduate student attending, but everyone was extremely welcoming and it was easy to make friends and learn completely new things about linguistics. Attending the conference also played a role in motivating me to being my own research as an undergraduate student, and I am hoping that once I complete it I will be able to present it either at the University of Texas at Austin or another university.

This program has had a profound impact on me and I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to undertake this internship. Initially I was completely unsure of whether or not research was something I would be interested in doing outside of this internship. I was also unsure of whether or not going to graduate school was something that would be worth the future investment, and preparation as an undergraduate student. Through the Intellectual Entrepreneurship internship I realized that research is nowhere near as daunting as it once seemed, and is actually extremely exciting. The Intellectual Entrepreneurship internship has played a major role in directing me towards research, and helping me decide that I definitely want to go to graduate school and pursue.