Student Spotlight: Ramana Marshalla

Submitted by Arts & Sciences Web Team on

Ramana Marshalla
Until recently, Ramana Marshalla has been reluctant to tell her story. Currently a UW Honors student, Marshalla was embarrassed that despite being a straight-A, overachieving high school student, she dropped out in her senior year, left home and lived in her car for a while following a devastating nervous breakdown.

After studying in Querétaro, Mexico during junior summer, Marshalla said, “High school with all its drama was frustrating and, although I only needed one class to graduate, I took a full load.” The pressure proved too much for her. Her hope to graduate at or near the top of her class crumbled, confusing her family, teachers and, most of all, Marshalla.

After two and a half years waitressing and soul-searching Marshalla returned to academics, completing high school and an Associates Degree at Cascadia Community College in Bothell.

Working in a Mexican restaurant in a Mexican-American Community, immersed in Spanish, convinced Marshalla that her studies would involve Spanish. So with her degree and some money she had saved in her back pocket, Marshalla did a 12-week intensive Spanish Program with the Clic International House Language School in Seville, Spain. Unable to afford side-excursions, Marshalla spent her free time wandering the city. “As I explored Seville, I found myself,” she explained. “Getting to know my surroundings enabled me to know myself: what and who I liked,” she added.

“I began to accept that the traditional route is not always best, and certainly was not for me,” she said. Marshalla was ready to finish her degree. She struggled with the personal statement on her UW application, but chose to come clean with her story. “Even if I was not accepted to U.W., I knew what I had accomplished,” she recalled, “and I didn’t feel like a failure anymore. I read the essay after I wrote it and thought, ‘That’s me.’”

But she was accepted. And recommended for the honors program. And will graduate with distinction and honors this June from the U.W.’s Division of Spanish and Portuguese Spanish Honors Program.

Professor Anna Witte “… supported me from the start,” said Marshalla. “Being a transfer student was tough, not knowing the system or any of my peers.” But Witte was supportive and helpful and took an interest in Marshalla’s path. “She was instrumental in making me feel that I was capable,” said Marshalla. In Witte’s translation class this year, Marshalla translated the short story, El Bien Esquivo (Evasive Good) by Ana Rosetti. “It was an extreme blessing to work with Anna Witte in that translation class,” said Marshalla. “Her belief in me was most assuring for the path I ended up on.” Marshalla respects and admires Witte who she describes as “a creative, brilliant, fun professor. She is worldly and well studied and really knows her stuff. If I become a professor, she will be my model.”

Advisor, Suzanna Martinez deserves “…the most kudos in the world!” said Marshalla. “She was the first person I talked to at the UW. She guided and helped me plan my schedule, allowing me to bounce ideas off of her,” added Marshalla. “She is the best tutor/advisor I could have hoped for, always smiling, always there when I need her.”

The late León Bensadon recommended Marshalla for the honors program. “He was a good-hearted man who made clear his abundant care that all his students learn,” reflected Marshalla. “His diverse experiences carried over into his teaching of language; he related word meaning and usage to broader topics and areas of life helping students make deeper connections in their overall understanding of the language. I cannot say or use certain words in Spanish without thinking of the specific lesson in which I learned the word from him.”

David Sánchez was another stand out. “He inspired me because I saw myself in him through his lively passion for language. His recognition of me and my love of learning caused me to work and study harder,” she recalled. “His enthusiasm for his subject and encouragement of students made language a magical, mystical thing guided by fixed rules,” she recalled.

And her study abroad experience in Ecuador solidified her drive to go into education and cemented her love of Spanish.

To anyone struggling with their path – or even to those who are not – Marshalla advises, “Don’t be afraid to stray from the norm, to make your own decisions and to follow what your heart is telling you. You know what you are supposed to do despite pressures all around you.”

Next up? After graduation, Marshalla will be heading to Spain to teach English with the Cultural Ambassador Program. Then her Master's degree. “I don’t know what I want to do after that,” said Marshalla. For now, she’ll just see how it goes. “And,” she added, laughing, “that’s okay!”

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