David J. Sellinger
Graduation year: May 2014
Majors: German, French
What are you doing now?
I am currently studying German Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I teach beginning-level German as well. I am in the second year of my MA, so I should be finishing that up next semester and will hopefully be starting my PhD next year. As far as what I’m actually studying and researching—all last year I was unsure of a literature focus, and no matter how much the professors here insisted that I had plenty of time to choose, I was frustrated that I still hadn’t figured that out when I had already more or less figured out my research interests before even coming here. Luckily, last year we had a wonderful visiting medievalist from Germany, and taking a seminar with her reminded me of how much I loved the medieval French literature that I learned about literature course within WLC and, well...I decided to become a medievalist.
Why did you chose to study this area?
In my freshman year I fully intended on going into something completely different. My father was a computer programmer, and I figured I liked programming enough that I would go into that as well. But literally my first ever class in college was German 101—and it only took a week or two to figure out that I wanted to completely switch what I was originally was going to do so that I could teach German instead. And I haven’t looked back since.
How did the language program at CMU prepare you for your future?
First of all, without the Department of World Languages and Cultures, I would have been doing something completely different—something that may have been a little more secure on the job WLC enabled me to change that, and I don’t regret the decision to change tracks in the slightest. So, truthfully, the language program at WLC is what gave me my future as it stands today.
In addition to studying German as a primary focus, taking a second foreign language as a part of the language program has already helped—not only do I need three foreign languages for the German program at UIUC, but medievalists who can do both Middle High German and Old French is something that, as I’ve been told, is in high demand in Germany but there is little supply. Studying at Central in FLLC allowed me to do both modern languages, and now I just have to take stepping stones back about a thousand years in each language.
What was your favorite thing about learning a language? What is your favorite thing about studying another culture in depth?
My favorite thing about learning a language is the language itself—I find languages similar to a frustratingly complex puzzle that is extremely satisfying to figure out. My favorite part is actually the grammar (which really weirds my students out) and trying to figure out all of its intricacies. If I could find a job where all I did was learn languages, I’d be set for life—I’ve already studied German and French and I’m learning Romanian, Swedish and Spanish at the moment...and I’m always looking for more!
What’s next for you?
My original plan when I started studying German was to get a PhD in German and hopefully get a post as a German professor as close to home as possible. The longer I’ve studied however, my plans have changed a bit—becoming a professor is still Plan A, but just in case, I’ve also been coming up with other plans if that doesn’t work out quite as I hope. So if I don’t become a professor, I’ll either end up working as an academic librarian, or I might take up programming again and create a language learning program. But, y’know, one that works better than the rest.