Selin Bilgin, BA French/Spanish

Around the World (and Back Again)

by Sarah Lamb, Student Writer

Turkish is University of Lethbridge student Selin Bilgin’s first language. English is her second, French is her third and Spanish is her fourth. Language has always held an important place in Selin’s life but, surprisingly, that isn’t why she decided to become a French/Spanish major.

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to help people,” Selin explains, “Originally I thought I would do that by being an elementary teacher, so I came to the University of Lethbridge for the education program. I was studying general social science, but then I took one Spanish course and I fell in love.”

Selin attributes part of this to her first Spanish professor, Luz Ospina. “She’s magical.” Selin says fondly, “She loves her students and she loves the language. Learning from her, there was something inside me that just clicked.

Selin changed to a French/Spanish major to pursue her newfound passion, but her desire to help people never faded. Instead, she saw the opportunity to build cultural connections through language. “Language is that bridge to other people,” she explains, “There are so many thoughts and ideas you don’t even know exist until you speak with people in their own language.”

As part of the French/Spanish major, Selin was able to do a semester abroad in either a French or a Spanish speaking country. She chose to go to Argentina and was immersed in an entirely different culture for six months. “The semester is only four months, but I ended up changing my plane ticket,” Selin says, laughing, “I’d taken Spanish for two years before I went, and when I got there I couldn’t understand anything. By the time I left, I was dreaming in Spanish.”

Aside from the academic portion of her trip, Selin travelled a lot. She explored all over the Northern part of Argentina and even went to Chile. Meeting local people and really getting to know them was an incredibly important part of her experience. “Just knowing you can connect so deeply with people that live on the other side of the world is fantastic. Sometimes I couldn’t really get my point across, because of the language barriers, but at the end of the day you share this comfort and this love for somebody. I think that’s really, really special.”

Since coming back home to Canada, Selin continues to keep expanding her love of the international and her belief in the benefits of cross-cultural learning. She currently hosts a radio show on CKXU, called “Chill Out, Farout”, that airs every Wednesday at 3 p.m. On it, Selin plays music from around the world and talks about health and wellness.

“There’s nothing more valuable than health; feeling good and mental happiness,” Selin says, “Seeing my dad go through chemotherapy, I started asking ‘Why are people not as healthy? How can I work on myself to have optimal health, and then how can I show others how to include health into their lives?” Aside from her radio show and the way she shares her amazing positivity with everyone around her, Selin plans to finish her degree at the U of L and then continue on at Toronto’s Institute of Traditional Medicine. “There’s an oriental medicine program where you learn about energy and movement, and I’m fascinated by that. There’s this ancient wisdom that has been untapped in the Western world. Hopefully I can dive into it and then spread the knowledge.”

Selin has also been involved in all sorts of campus events, from DJing at the U of L’s International Night to being the Fresh Fest Jamboree coordinator. “University isn’t just about going to class, visiting home and the occasional party,” says Selin, “That’s great, they’re all important things, but for me what’s changed the game is getting involved on campus. You meet different people from totally different backgrounds. Being a part of something, just committing to it and doing it is super important. When you show love and appreciation for a school, it comes back to you. It’s about putting your heart into things.”

Watch Selin's video about her experience at uLethbridge!