Journey Around the World

Dynamic teachers introduced
Kaitlyn Kennedy to the world. Once inspired, she chose the road lesstraveled, fearlessly taking on the world, its people, places, and passions. 

by Kaitlyn Kennedy, Class of 2007
St. Agnes ‘11, University of Texas ‘15

At Presbyterian School I began taking Spanish in Kindergarten. One of the most influential people during this time was Señora Andrea Hanhausen. She was my teacher from second through eighth grade, and she constantly challenged me to grow, while also making learning fun. She and another PS Spanish teacher, Señora Marla Leyva, organized a trip to Spain for students and alumni when I was in ninth grade. That trip was my first time visiting Europe. It was the greatest feeling to be able to employ the Spanish I had been learning for years. Señora Hanhausen’s joy for teaching and traveling made me want to do the same when I was older. (I even used to pretend I was a Spanish teacher and that my stuffed animals were my students.)  

As I grew older and we began learning more complicated grammar and vocabulary, my passion for Spanish only grew. The language was like a giant puzzle! Because I loved learning Spanish so much, I decided to begin another language my junior year of high school. I took extracurricular German lessons at the Deutsche Samstagsschule. Again, I benefited from another fantastic teacher who pushed me to exceed my own expectations of myself. She inspired me to continue with German in college.

Because of my lifelong interest in Spanish, I decided to study Latin American Studies at the University of Texas which has one of the world’s premier Latin American Studies institutes. I wanted to take advantage of being in a place with some of the best resources and researchers in the field. As my second major, I chose Spanish Literature. I had enough AP credits from high school that I could afford to take on a triple major, so I signed up for German as well. I’m glad I did because studying German completely changed my life’s trajectory.

One of the most defining experiences of my undergraduate career was living junior year abroad in Freiburg, Germany, a beautiful city near the French and Swiss borders. That year was an extremely challenging one. In the beginning, I came home every day with headaches from listening to German for hours on end. My attention span was super short, and I felt disheartened that I couldn’t communicate as easily as I would with my friends at home. Then one day a few months later, I noticed that the headaches were gone. While I continued to struggle (and still do) with speaking German, I could understand everything people were saying around me.  It was an empowering feeling to know that I could move far away to a place where I didn’t know anybody and where the people spoke another language, and that I would be okay.

In May 2015, I graduated from UT as one of the twelve Dean’s Distinguished Graduates in the College of Liberal Arts. I received a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst scholarship to pursue a master's degree in Osnabrück, Germany, where I am currently studying international migration and intercultural relations in German.  I’ve learned so much about studying migration from various interdisciplinary perspectives, and it’s a very exciting time to be in this field. 

In addition to language studies, another important aspect of my life is lacrosse. I began playing the sport at PS in fifth grade and haven’t stopped since. When I arrived at UT,  I was overwhelmed because I had never attended such a large school. The Texas Women’s Club Lacrosse team was my family on campus. My coach and teammates taught me so much about discipline, sacrifice, focus, and, of course, having fun! Lacrosse has also helped me to connect with people all around the world. I played and coached the team in Freiburg and am now playing in Osnabrück. I also plan to lead training for Poland's women’s national team.I benefited tremendously from high-quality education, starting at Presbyterian School and extending through my postgraduate career. PS students have been provided the amazing opportunity to learn in a first-rate environment. This is a privilege that comes with responsibility as well.  Each person has talents and passions to share. No matter what those talents may be, they can be used to benefit the community in some way. So get out there and see the world. There is a reason everyone says traveling and living in other places changes your perspective. It is fun and challenging, and you will learn so much about yourself in the process. 


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