All posts by Marnie Leonard

Hello! My name is Marnie and I'm an English major and Student Ambassador here at Parkland.

New Perspectives: Study Abroad in Brazil

Sophomore Marnie Leonard (third from left, below) was one of several Parkland students taking a Portuguese language class last spring who were then able to immerse themselves in the culture during a two-week trip to Brazil last month. This opportunity came about due to a three-year federal grant Parkland has received to boost foreign-language study.

As you will see, Marnie gained more than a deeper understanding of Portuguese.


I was very nervous about this trip. I had never been so far away from home for so long before, and it was my first time abroad. It felt really daunting to be going to a place where I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to communicate with people who lived there. I was always more excited than nervous to embark on the trip, though!

Students from Parkland and Joliet Junior College attended the trip to Brazil.

We went to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paraty, and Mogi Mirrim. In Rio, we saw Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Copacabana beach, and the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral. We also visited a favela, or slum, and got to witness firsthand the extreme poverty that so many Brazilians live in. In São Paulo, we went to several museums and to Ibirapuera Park, the Brazilian equivalent of Central Park in NYC.

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Here’s a look at life from the favela.

Paraty is a preserved colonial town, so we saw a lot of cool baroque architecture and learned the history of the port there and its ties with Portugal. While we were there, we also visited an island village populated by fishermen. It was so beautiful and untouched by the outside world, but just like the favela, its people lacked many of the resources and basic assets we take for granted in the United States.

I think my favorite part of the trip was Mogi Mirrim, though. Mogi Mirrim is a really small city in São Paulo state. This is where the trip started to feel more like a study abroad rather than a vacation. We went to the college there, Fatec College, a technical school of about 1,000 students. It was really interesting to meet the Brazilian college students and interact with them (as best we could with the language barrier) and learn more about what it’s like to live day to day in Brazil. What made it so cool to me was the fact that this was an experience I never would have had the chance to have if I had just been a tourist in Brazil—and they were so excited to meet Americans. The Brazilians were all so warm and welcoming that it was hard to leave them when the time came to go.

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US and Brazilian students get acquainted at Fatec College.

This trip was so incredible, I would go on it again in a heartbeat. I gained a new understanding of worldwide poverty. I met people my own age who come from a different world and yet still had things in common with them. I now have a new appreciation for language and how difficult it is to master a new one. These are all new perspectives I will carry with me in returning to my normal life, and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to obtain this outlook.


For the current academic year (2015-2016), Parkland’s foreign-language grant program focuses on learning Arabic, with an opportunity to visit the country of Morocco in summer 2016. Our AY 2017 opportunity will explore Taiwan and the Chinese language. Short-term summer study abroad opportunities and scholarships will be offered for both of these countries, too. For more information, give Jody a call!

Jody Littleton
Associate Professor, Communication
Study Abroad Coordinator
Parkland College

No Winter Break? Break the Ice Instead

Get ready for the saddest sentence in the English language: Winter break is officially over. It’s pretty easy to be bummed out about trekking through the snow and ice to get to class every day again after a month of binge-watching Netflix (I know I wasn’t the only one) and not having to worry about homework or papers.

But there is definitely a significant part of me that’s excited about starting all new classes; and with this new set of classes comes a new set of classmates. Which means it’s time to start making friends.

Now, I am self-aware enough to recognize that I am probably not the best person to be making a post about this. In fact, I could still use a lot of help in this department. But making friends, or at least acquaintances, in your classes is so important—especially when it comes to needing help with course material. I have passed many a math class through the assistance and explanations of my classmates. And it’ll make going to class seem like less of a drag if you have a few friendly faces there.

So here are a few strategies that could help break the ice (and maybe writing about them will help me to take my own advice):

• Just introduce yourself!
It could be as simple as turning to your neighbor and telling them your name. If you’re an introvert (like I am), maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll be outgoing enough to bring you out of your shell. Opposites complement each other!

• Bond over your mutual struggles with the course material.
I think we’ve all been here—the camaraderie felt amongst a group of people who all just failed a test or did poorly on a homework assignment is strong. Use it to do better next time—together, you might be able to figure out just what you did wrong.

• Find something in common.
Whether it’s your major, the area you’re from, a hobby—chances are, there’s something! And hey, if you having nothing at all in common, you’ll probably learn something new!

These are just a few methods that might help you make friends with your new classmates. But like I said, I’m no expert on the topic. Any and all suggestions are welcome, and thanks for reading!

[Marnie Leonard is a Parkland College Student Ambassador.]

What can you do with an English degree?

It’s a question I’ve heard over and over again: “What are you planning on doing with an English degree?” This is frequently accompanied by derision and/or unsolicited advice to change my major to something more lucrative.

Perhaps there is more job security in nursing and more financial stability in a business or engineering degree, but I believe it is far more rewarding to study what you love and, personally, I am happier around words than I am around numbers.

So, getting back to that pesky question, here are some things you can do with an English degree:


This one is pretty obvious—I think many people automatically assume this is what most English majors plan to do with their degree. And while teaching is certainly not all that is available to English majors, it is nonetheless an excellent option. Elementary and secondary school teachers require teaching certifications, and college professors need a master’s degree.

Pre-professional Programs

College students majoring in English tend to be very well-rounded in their educations. They are taught to write well, analyze ideas, and communicate skillfully. This is why many with an English BA further their studies in fields like law, medicine, and business.


People with English degrees are conversant in researching, editing, reading, and writing, and this makes them a good fit for jobs within the publishing industry. While these kinds of jobs are a little harder to come by, it is possible to work your way up through jobs such as an editorial assistant or a proofreader/copyeditor, or through internships.


This is another occupation that English majors are naturally suited for, but as with publishing, these jobs can be difficult to secure. Writing is also a multifaceted field—it includes journalism, technical writing, scientific writing, creative writing, and copywriting. Any Parkland College English major interested in writing should look at all their college transfer options for Writing minors or concentrations to accompany their English major upon transfer.

Advertising, Podcasts, Public Relations, Research Assisting, Speechwriting, Travel Writing, Movie Critiquing

The list goes on! There are tons of jobs out there for English majors, and a great place to find out more about it is Parkland’s Career Center in the U wing. You can take a career test and find out exactly what you’re suited for. Make sure you know all your options, and have fun exploring them!

[Marnie Leonard is a Parkland College Student Ambassador.]