Alumni Spotlight: Mireya Milian

This Alumni Spotlight focuses on Mireya Milian, who graduated from the undergraduate program in June 2010 with a degree in Linguistics (Spanish Emphasis) and a minor in Portuguese.


How did you become interested in Linguistics?

When I entered UCSB I was an undeclared major. I really did take the opportunity to explore different classes, form Religious Studies to Philosophy. I knew that I had a passion for learning about other cultures, but I couldn’t figure out what specifically about other cultures fascinated me. I considered Global Studies and Communication, but then my dorm-mate told me that her sister had majored in Linguistics. I was instantly attracted to the sound of the major. I remember looking up the required classes and being intrigued by the very scientific way to think about any language. I declared the major my second year, and never questioned that that was the best major I could have picked.


What have you been up to since graduation?

Well after graduating from UCSB, I had a very difficult time getting hired in a field where I could develop and exercise my major. While in college I had worked for In-n-Out Burger and Trader Joe’s so all the experience I had was in customer service. Frustrated and annoyed with not being able to find a job in a desired career field, I decided to apply to the Peace Corps. When I went to my interview with my Recruiter, she asked me what country would I want to do my service in. I looked up at the map and pointed to the Y shaped country in Africa – Mozambique. I chose this beautiful country because their official language is Portuguese and they have over 25 Bantu languages I could explore. I served in Mozambique from 2011-2013 teaching English in a secondary school to 8th, 9th, and 11th graders. I also ran a girls group to empower young females, an English Theater group, and a young adults group where we discussed current events and cultural/political ideologies. 


Where are you now?

Currently I work for a non-profit called Project GRAD Los Angeles as a College Readiness Advisor. I work in the San Fernando Valley, my hometown. I work with students who will be from the first generation in their family to graduate with a college degree. I love my job because at the end of the day, I always know that I’ve spent it helping students achieve their full potential. 


Did having a background in Linguistics help you in any of your post-graduation endeavors?

Oh, absolutely. While living in the northern part of Mozambique, in a small town named Montepuez, the 2 native languages spoken were Shi-emakua and Shi Makonde. I tried learning these langagues to connect with the locals. They were ergative-absolutive languages, and that allowed me to experience the different function of language live, not just through a textbook. Also, when teaching my English class, I used a lot of the IPA alphabet to facilitate the pronunciation of English. Being a linguistics major definitely helped me teach English abroad. 

What are some of your favorite memories from your time at UCSB?

I truly enjoyed my college experience at UCSB, and all my professors for my major classes. I attended a couple of the Linguistic Club meetings, but I do wish I had been more involved with my department. The professor I remember the most is Professor Kennedy because I took several classes with him and enjoyed his teaching style. The most difficult class for me was Phonology, and one of my favorite core classes was Syntax. 


What are some of your current goals?

I would love to travel more, of course! My dream job would be to head to a village and transcribe languages that have not been documented yet, to create a dictionary or something of that nature – I guess that would be a research opportunity for a PhD in Linguistics! I’ve also looked into Master’s programs in Speech Pathology. I became interested in this career after hearing how this profession relates to linguistics. 


Do you have any advice for current students?

Get involved with the department! Get on their mailing list and get to know your professors! Although it is an accomplishment to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree, job fields are becoming more competitive and more and more are requiring Master’s degree. Don’t lose momentum and apply to even higher education!