To self-designed East Asian Languages and Marketing major Andrew Gallegos, the most important aspect of his education has always been bridging cultures; this accounts for his travel to multiple countries, the study abroad programs he has participated in, and his ability to speak several languages. Gallegos grew up speaking English and Spanish, so he considers both to be his native languages.
He is self-taught in Mandarin (for 10 years), Japanese (for eight years), and Korean (for four years), though he did take formal classes for each after his initial solo dive into studying, and can currently converse in all three. He attempted to learn Thai at one point, but found it very difficult, and would like to return to it in the future. He cited each language as relatively easy to learn because he had such an interest in learning them. According to Gallegos, language-studying “comes easily and naturally” when you are really interested in doing it.
Gallegos spent a lot of his time dedicated to languages. However, he did not just sit and look at a textbook; he was productive in his learning, and tried to incorporate it in other ways. For example, he watches a lot of dramas in the languages he is studying. In December of 2020, he wrote Christmas cards to international friends in target languages, and he had frequent talks with them when he travelled internationally. The friends he made at Korea University often tried to communicate in English, being mostly international students. Yet, Gallegos challenged himself to communicate in the various languages the group of them spoke, ranging from Korean, to Japanese, to Mandarin, and more. He had to really put himself out there to enjoy the Thursday and Friday night outings with brand new people, but it was well worth the effort.
As someone who likes to be challenged, Whittier College was a fantastic fit for Gallegos. The flexibility of the Whittier Scholars Program allowed him to take classes that would present him an entirely new way of thinking. Anthropology, for example, was a subject he didn’t even know about in high school. “It takes a culture [or] society and challenges you to look at it from an objective, academic perspective,” said Gallegos. In addition, “[I] had to compose deep, complex ideas in Spanish for a class,” which included stepping out of his comfort zone with the language.
Gallegos is also very thankful for the professors at WC, who are “receptive to sitting down and having a conversation.” He always started off his meetings with professors with a few minutes of just talking and catching up, which he appreciated a lot, coming from highly-educated people. “They provide so much information and new perspectives,” said Gallegos, citing that he, himself, would love to be like that one day.
WSP allowed Gallegos to explore all of the different interests he had. Coming into college, he knew he wanted to study Chinese and Business, and figured he was going to be a double major. However, taking on two majors means a very stressful workload. Gallegos discovered that WSP is a very unique program that allows students to tailor their courses to their actual interests, and not a set of requirements given by the College. He was also able to incorporate a lot of the off-campus experience that he had, such as his time spent learning Korean, despite the school not offering majors or minors in some of the subjects he had studied in high school.
In his second year at Whittier College, Gallegos decided to drop business as a general area of study and took up marketing instead. Business was not interesting to him anymore, and he found himself pulled toward the mechanics of a commercial: what it takes to make them, the language used, and other technicalities. He was able to use marketing as a way to study communications, which is what he would like to go to graduate school for. Of course, being a WSP major meant having to seriously defend what he wanted to pursue, over and over again. Nonetheless, Gallegos said that is exactly what made WSP so fulfilling in the end.
Part of the Whittier College journey, of course, is having to do a senior project. The point of a senior project, Gallegos kindly explained, is to “find a research question that touches upon, preferably, all of the disciplines that are melted into your major.” For him, doing this was quite easy. Not only did he only have two disciplines to combine — business and language — he also knew the very base concept of what he wanted to do for his project. As someone who loves to travel (having been to South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia), and loves to fly, Gallegos knew his project had to reflect this in some way. Adding in anthropology and culture as well, he designed his senior project’s topic as such: Maintaining Corporate Social Responsibility and Developing Inclusive Marketing Strategies for East Asian Airlines.
For this project, Gallegos is designing a marketing plan and researching ways to promote inclusive marketing techniques in airlines. He is working, specifically, with Taiwanese airlines, which are already known for their service, safety, and presenting themselves in a dignified manner — but they are weak in diversity. Currently, Taiwan is the only country in Asia that has legalized same-sex marriage. However, there are still hardships to overcome; a same-sex couple, for example, cannot obtain a marriage visa if one or both partners are from a country that does not recognize same-sex couples. This is where Gallegos is hoping to make a change.
To begin making improvements in this area, Gallegos first surveyed customers to see if they were even interested in diversity, and worked with an influencer to get his answers. Bingo! The people were excited for diversity, especially LGBTQIA+ representation, so Gallegos knew his project would go somewhere if he started it.
Something Gallegos struggled a bit with, at the beginning of his project, was where to draw the line. “This paper can’t go on forever,” Gallegos said; he had to stop somewhere, but it was difficult to figure out where to stop, especially since his project has been years in the making. Originally, Gallegos did not even plan for this research to turn into his senior project. He started it without an agenda, and simply wanted to jump into his interests in progressive advertising techniques.
After graduation, Gallegos wants to go on to get his PhD and circle back to teaching intercultural communication. As someone who adores bridging cultures, Gallegos wants to be an ambassador for American cultural diversity and values. He is still not 100 percent sure what he wants to do with airlines, he just knows he wants whatever he does to have a cultural focus, and he wants his experiences to be able to contribute to his teaching. Living an interesting life means being able to share advice and ideas with youth, who will soon be pursuing their own interests and dreams. That is Gallegos’s ultimate goal.
Whittier college professors and students are not the only people who inspired his desire to teach. One of the most influential experiences of Gallegos’ life was the time he spent studying abroad at Korea University. South Korea is a very competitive country, Gallegos explained; grades and scores were everything. This is nothing Gallegos was not already accustomed to; he grew up competitive, and has always tried to be the best. Still, it was intense: in a class of 50 students, only 10 will get As, 10 will get Bs, and so forth. Students book study rooms in the library weeks in advance just to get a spot. This was unlike anything Gallegos had experienced in the U.S., but, luckily, he met a lot of friends in Korea that helped him out. He attended study groups composed of fellow international students, and they would all de-stress and connect by sharing their experiences in their home countries, including talks about culture and their struggles with new languages.
“It felt like, no matter what the outcome [of my studies] would be, I was going to be okay,” said Gallegos. His friends overseas helped him establish a schedule for studying, gave him advice for how to help himself, and were always willing to go out of their way to help him out in whatever way he needed. He was unsure, at first, how receptive the people in South Korea would be to Americans, but “it was inspiring to see that they were willing to welcome American students,” said Gallegos. “Some of the students probably don’t realize how much of an impact they had.”
Gallegos had quite a few bits of advice for current students of Whittier College, the main, and likely most obvious, one being: study abroad! It is a learning experience, and it has the potential to change you as a person. He said, “It is important to be as warm, welcoming and interculturally competent as possible.”
As far as his advice for language-learning goes, Gallegos said, “You have to think in the language.” Most people think in their native language and attempt to translate it as they speak. Gallegos suggests actually challenging yourself to speak in the language is how you best learn it; that is, after all, how he became fluent in five languages, and counting!
For his final piece of advice, regarding the inevitable senior project, Gallegos suggested that one of the most important things is to know your audience as much as possible, and to be conscious of how you present yourself and your ideas so that you are doing so in a way that is comprehensive for the people listening. Gallegos also noted how “we never stop learning, whether it’s little things or big things,” so your approach to everything should come with a willingness to learn about it.
Feature image: Courtesy of Andrew Gallegos