DePauw University's foreign language requirement: vital part of liberal arts


As an admission tour guide, I've had ample opportunities to reflect on what it really means to go to a "liberal arts" institution. I'm paid to elaborate on how distribution credits and competency requirements help DePauw University students in the long run. With liberal arts requirements, we become better contributors to society due to our advanced speaking and writing skills and our varied academic background.
One such requirement that all DePauw students are charged with is the two-semester foreign language proficiency. This certainly is a quintessential "liberal arts" requirement, as it demands that students better their communication skills and pushes students out of their comfort zones rather than solely focusing on a more pragmatic or technical area of study.
Recently, the modern languages department discussed overhearing tour guides bragging about how easy it can be to "test out" of your foreign language requirement. Not only is this a low blow for the modern language department, but also a depreciation of the value of DePauw's liberal arts focus. Students should be advocating for the benefits and study abroad opportunities that are a result of foreign language learning, not undermining the valor of graduation requirements.
One tidbit that all tour guides boast proudly is the fact that 95 percent of all students at DePauw have an off-campus study experience for class credit. While it is true that this statistic also includes internships and study experience within the United States, I whole-heartedly believe that this number would be much lower if students were not required to push their own limits and take a foreign language.
I will admit that as a French major, I am biased in giving advice on this issue. When I was in high school, however, I did not have any intention of even continuing my language studies at the collegiate level. After taking the dreaded placement test and realizing that I was better at the language than I had previously thought, I decided to give French a second chance. I fell in love with the language under DePauw instruction. Had I not been required to test my French proficiency to begin to fulfill the language requirement, I would have never discovered this French-loving side of myself.
Now, as a rising senior who fully understands the benefits to be reaped from a liberal arts education, I fully advocate for what learning a second language can teach you about communication, global awareness and the DePauw community as a whole. There have been many debates on campus recently about whether or not the "DePauw bubble" is as culturally sensitive as it should be. How better to induce conversations than by learning about other languages and cultures right here in Greencastle?

- Rauschenberger is a junior French and political science major from Elgin, Ill.