Student Spotlight: Harrison Betz

| Thu, 03/28/24
Harrison Betz is an undergraduate student pursuing dual degrees in Spanish and international affairs. Photo by Devin Bittner.
Harrison Betz is an undergraduate student pursuing dual degrees in Spanish and international affairs. Photo by Devin Bittner.

Harrison Betz is an undergraduate student pursuing dual degrees in Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, part of Florida State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and international affairs in FSU’s College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. Betz, who expects to graduate this spring, has been involved with FSU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program through which he studied Italian literature under esteemed faculty. Throughout his academic career at FSU, Betz developed a passion for connecting with people around the globe and learning different perspectives through languages and culture. After pursuing further education, Betz aspires to one day work internationally as a diplomat or become a professor himself.

What year are you in school, and when do you expect to graduate?

I am in my third year at FSU, but as a student in FSU’s Degree in Three program, I plan to graduate in Spring 2024 with dual degrees.

Tell us a little about your background and what brought you to FSU.

I am originally from Tarpon Springs, Florida, but I lived in Pinellas County my whole life. When it came to choosing a college, my family wanted me to stay in Florida. I knew I wanted to study international affairs and Spanish, and FSU’s programs are of the highest caliber, especially for these areas of study.

What inspired you to pursue an education in Spanish and international affairs?

I started studying Spanish in middle school, and I have kept up with it since. I have found that studying Spanish is not about just learning a language, but it is also about developing a skill set that opens you up to a whole new world. I chose to study international affairs because I liked the idea of traveling to work for the government.

What is unique about FSU’s Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics?

One of the most stellar aspects of the MLL department is its faculty. I have specifically worked with faculty in both the Spanish and Italian programs, and they are all very dedicated to education. They believe in instructing their students and creating good experiences within and outside of the classroom. I also really love the department’s course programming and the different classes it offers.

Are there any faculty or staff that have helped or inspired you?

The first person who comes to mind is assistant professor of Italian Beth Coggeshall. I took her “Dante’s Inferno” class during my first year at FSU and vividly remember her passion for the subject. At the time, I was also involved with the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and needed a research project to work on. When she mentioned she had UROP positions open, I immediately knew I wanted to work with her. My UROP project was titled “Un libro, un sueño": Latin American Adaptations and Interpretations of Dante's Francesca. I took submissions of current “sightings” of Dante and his work in contemporary culture and edited them into informational posts for the digital archive Dante Today. Coggeshall now serves as my faculty mentor for my major thesis, Adapting Dante's Francesca: Re-imagining a Medieval Epic in Modern Latin America. Coggeshall engages her students in a way that inspires them to apply their education throughout life beyond the classroom.

The faculty members in the Spanish program are also exceptional. Teaching faculty members Maria Gutierrez and Diego Mejia-Prado are two of many great educators who are passionate about their work in the department. I have had only good experiences with MLL faculty.

What on-campus resources have helped you achieve success?

The FSU Libraries are amazing. The library staff always goes above and beyond whenever I need assistance. They have even managed to find me resources for out-of-print books that I requested. Many of my professors have also brought in library staff to give lectures on how students can best utilize library resources. The staff are incredibly involved in not only their own specialties of the library but also in supporting the coursework of each individual student.

What are your career goals?

I originally wanted to work abroad as a diplomat at a U.S. embassy. It is hard to say I want to do one specific thing when I am interested in doing a multitude of things. Teaching is one of many possibilities, and I think I would find being a professor and teaching very satisfying.

What aspect of your area of study do you find most rewarding?

The most rewarding thing about studying languages is discovering new perspectives. It is exciting to not just understand a foreign language but to be able to consume media that were originally written or produced in that language. It is nice to watch a movie or read a book in Spanish without translating it because I can hear and read how it is intended to sound. Since there is no mediator or translator, I know that these are the author’s exact words. This aspect is important to me because it is the exact translation of human experiences. It has taught me how diverse human experiences are and simultaneously, how extremely similar they can be.

Though you will miss FSU, what are you looking forward to the most upon graduation?

In addition to physically putting two framed diplomas on my wall, I am looking forward to wrapping up my undergraduate college experience and starting a new chapter! I am applying to graduate programs and am excited for a new beginning.