Language learning abroad prepares Deacon for career as civil rights attorney

Ananda Deacon and fellow students at Cuesta de Lipan in Argentina
Ananda and fellow students pose in front of obelisk and "B" and "A" made from greenery in Buenos Aires
Ananda Deacon used her time in Buenos Aires to hone her language skills and learn about the local culture while connecting with her peers.

Wisconsin International Scholars (WISc) program participant Ananda Deacon has been preparing for a career as a civil rights attorney since she was in high school. She had a hand in creating an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Student Alliance at Nicolet High School in Glendale. She was also one of two Wisconsin students in a cohort of 104 students in the country selected for the U.S. Senate Youth Program in D.C.

Since coming to UW–Madison, the junior, who is double majoring in Spanish and political science, and working toward a certificate in Afro-American studies, has continued to serve in ACLU leadership roles. She is president of UW–Madison’s ACLU Student Alliance and a member of the board of directors for ACLU Wisconsin. While her participation in these groups has fueled her passion for these issues, it has also put her in contact with board members already practicing as civil rights attorneys.

“I think it is an interesting and important line of work, especially in our current political climate,” said Deacon, who is also a Chancellor’s Scholar.

Ananda Deacon in front of La Mano de Punta del Este in Uruguay
Ananda Deacon visited La Mano de Punta del Este in Uruguay. The trip to Uruguay was built into the IFSA-Butler study abroad program.

In shadowing a civil rights attorney to learn more about her career path, Deacon was impressed by their ability to speak fluently in both Spanish and English. Wanting to also be able to connect with and serve clients in a similar manner, Deacon, who had studied Spanish since the fifth grade, decided to hone her language and cultural fluency.

As part of the WISc Program, Deacon chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“I knew I wanted to study abroad in a Spanish speaking country to immerse myself and improve my language skill, Deacon said. “What I didn’t know is Argentine Spanish is among the hardest to learn and understand.”

Fortunately, Deacon is used to a challenge. From March to mid-July 2019, Deacon lived and learned in Argentina, using the experience as an opportunity to also earn course credits. She took courses in grammar, Spanish literature, and even figure drawing. She also enrolled in a research methodology course and interned for the Argentina International Play Association, working with children in a general hospital.

It comes as no surprise that since returning from the rigorous semester, Deacon’s Spanish has improved. She is able to speak the language conversationally and feels more confident in her reading and writing abilities. In addition, the experience allowed her to broaden her views of the peoples and cultures of Argentina.

“I would highly encourage studying abroad in some capacity,” Deacon said. “I think anyone in any field can get something substantial out of studying abroad. With our educational system in the United States, it isn’t a shock to say we don’t cover everything about everyone. The knowledge I had of Argentina before going, which was very little, was updated or proven to be clearly false.”

Through WISc, Deacon can expect to have even more experiences that broaden her international understanding and prime her to advocate for civil rights issues domestically and abroad. Along the way she looks forward to connecting further to others in her WISc cohort and the program coordinators.

Ananda Deacon in Patagonia near iceburg
Ananda Deacon also took the opportunity to do some hiking in Patagonia during her time abroad.

“I’ve enjoyed my time with WISc so far, and I’ve enjoyed spending time with fellow “WIScers,” Deacon said. “Knowing Melody Niwot [WISc associate director] and Jolanda Taylor [WISc faculty director] and having them as resources for anything from planning out my study abroad trip to exchanging podcast recommendations is a priceless. The WISc program wouldn’t be the same without all of the work Melody and Jolanda put in.”