Nichole Springer can travel to almost every part of the world and find common grounds on which to communicate. That’s because in addition to her native English, Nichole has developed proficiency in Hindi, Urdu, Mandarin Chinese, Tamil, Bangla, Tibetan and Spanish. This incredible repertoire of languages gives her numerous ways to connect across cultures and across borders. She attributes much of her skills development to time spent at UW–Madison—first as an undergraduate studying international business and marketing, Chinese communication, and South Asian studies and now a graduate student in international public affairs. The International Division caught up with Nichole to learn more about her love for languages and what she gained from participation in the South Asian Summer Language Institute (SASLI).
Where did your interest in languages come from?
I didn’t start learning a second language until my sophomore year of high school. I enjoyed the courses, but I don’t think I had an affinity for them at that point. I tested into Spanish 101 and thought to myself—I’m going to take a new language, why not? I figured I’d do Chinese, I don’t know why, but I think because everyone said it was the hardest language and I said ok, I’ll prove you wrong.
What made you want to continue learning different languages?
I took Chinese and realized I really liked learning languages. I saw the sign for SASLI (South Asian Summer Language Institute), took Hindi through that and liked that a lot, so I just kept going. I thought, “what else can I learn?”
I studied abroad in India and realized there are a lot of people attached to different languages. There were a lot of people I could communicate with, but many that I couldn’t. That really helped me to realize the plethora of languages before me.
There is so much you get from learning a language. You get to know about the culture, you think differently depending on the grammar and meanings behind the words, idioms, and all that… so each area, especially in India or China where there are multiple ethnicities and languages… I wanted to fully understand it. Also, you start to see the connections between all the languages, so you’re like “I bet I could learn more!”
What did you do after completing your undergraduate degree?
I spent three years working in India at the same program I studied abroad in, working for a study abroad company that also partnered with UW, so I got to see a lot of UW students. I came back after COVID started and didn’t really know what to do, so I figured it would be nice to get another degree. I applied and got into the LaFollette School of Public Affairs, so I am getting my master’s in international public affairs.
I not only studied in India, but I studied abroad in Thailand and China as well, and so I have a lot of knowledge of general Asia, particularly for South Asia. I want to put more qualitative and quantitative skills behind that knowledge in being able to look at things from a broader policy standpoint. It would be nice to use my experience abroad in whatever I do in the future.
Do you have a dream job?
That’s hard because I’m learning there are more jobs and positions that I was aware of, so I’m not sure. I want to work on policy related to the U.S. and India and make a positive outcome. I also feel like I’ve already lived the dream because I got to work in India for study abroad. That was fantastic.