I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with many degrees in both English and Spanish. I had always wanted to learn Spanish formally and UIC turned out to be the ideal place for me because I also worked full-time. First of all, I liked the difference here at UIC from my high school Spanish classes. In high school, when I asked to take Spanish, the counselors thought all I wanted was an easy A. At UIC, the Spanish department taught Spanish for Spanish speakers. And no one questioned my motives. These classes were difficult, but I did learn Spanish. I learned to read, write, and speak Spanish properly. I also learned about the different dialects of Spanish from various Spanish-speaking regions, including the United States with the fifth largest population of Spanish speakers.
I also earned an M.A. in English and an M.A. in Spanish from UIC. I knew then that I wanted to study for my Ph.D. But I was planning on staying at UIC and getting it in English. However, the Spanish department started a doctoral program in Hispanic Studies. I was torn over what program to choose. I wanted to continue studying Spanish, but I also loved American and English literature. I thought of going to another university for my Ph.D., but since I worked full-time, my options were limited. A classmate of mine told me that she had visited the Northwestern University Spanish department to see about applying for their doctoral program. One of the professors there told her that she was better off staying at UIC. I decided to look elsewhere. I also thought of applying to the University of Chicago since it is a very prestigious university, and besides, it was very close to my house. At the time, those three were the only universities in Chicago with a doctoral program in Spanish.
UIC seemed to be my best option. So I looked at their Spanish department more closely. I was very surprised at my discoveries. Despite the usual bureaucratic problems from which no university is immune, I liked what I saw. In fact, I was impressed! Graduate students came from all over the Spanish-speaking world to study Spanish at UIC! Almost every class that I took at UIC was taught by a native Spanish speaker. UIC had Spanish professors who were famous in Spain and Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries. So, the choice was obvious. I am proud to say that I earned my Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies with an emphasis on literature from UIC!