Magellan Scholar Pursues Language Study in Hawaii

Created: March 2, 2017
Last Updated: July 9, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (March 2, 2017) – Kateryna Czuczman is a junior at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) who spends her days managing a biology major, chemistry and English minors, and following the pre-health track. However, she has always had a passion for something outside of all those programs: language.

This led her to study linguistics and psychology in Hawaii for the summer through the Magellan Project.

“At home, my family speaks Ukrainian and Russian and in high school I studied Spanish and Latin. Language is something that was always incorporated into my life. So, I chose Hawaii as my travel location because it was a great place to study a unique language,” Kateryna said.

Her initial plan was to travel to Hawaii and spend three weeks there immersed in learning the Hawaiian language. However, she soon realized that it likely would not be possible to accomplish her goal in the time allotted for her project. Finding people who spoke Hawaiian fluently was a challenge, and Kateryna decided she would have to change the scope of her project.

“I originally intended to learn Hawaiian but many middle-aged people did not grow up learning Hawaiian so locals couldn’t really help me with that, which led me to change my project,” she said. “So, instead I studied the evolution of the language.”

How did she come up with this change on the spot? She had a little help from back home. She wants to thank Tyler Tenney, coordinator of the Magellan Project, for helping her revise her project while she was in Hawaii. His guidance helped save her project.

Kateryna spent the next three weeks looking into the history of the Hawaiian language, and what happened that caused it to die off. A lot of outside influences, she discovered, pushed the language out of the way to make English the universal language in the state. But it didn’t die off completely.

“I learned how the natives are trying to incorporate learning their original language back into the school systems. Private schools are teaching students and their parents the language right as they enter the system and public schools are offering it as an elective,” Kateryna said.

This encouraged her, because she has always been fascinated by languages and seeing how different cultures speak.

“I look forward to revisiting Hawaii in a number of years and witnessing the comeback and revitalization of the islands’ native language,” she said.

While the linguistics part of her project was her main focus, she also completed a short psychology internship with a professor at Hawaii Pacific University. She enjoyed being able to shadow this professor and learn how to conduct experiments, surveys, and see what a graduate class looks like.

“The psychology internship was very stimulating. I learned how studies are done behind the scenes,” she said. The only downside of the internship was that she couldn’t get fully involved in some studies because she was there for only a short amount of time.

Kateryna’s Magellan Project taught her many valuable lessons about engaging in research and developing communication skills that will help her in her own career endeavors.

“I plan to go onto Optometry school. Although my Magellan did not directly relate to my future career goal, it did help my social skills in that striking up conversation with strangers in Hawaii about random topics to make a connection isn’t all too different with how a doctor gets to personally know a patient and create a bond,” she said.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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