PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Mike Farkas had a running start getting ready for college while at Belmont (Mass.) High School. He took numerous advance placement classes and honors courses, was student council president and originated a Spanish tutoring program. He also worked at a grocery store, and he knew that even with loans and scholarships, he’d have to work throughout his college years.
Farkas researched PSU and particularly the Department of Languages and Linguistics before applying. He wanted to better his Spanish, which he had studied since seventh grade, and learn more about literature and education pedagogy. He didn’t want to go too far from home, and was pleased to find faculty who are native Spanish speakers teaching at Plymouth.
Now a graduating senior, Farkas says Plymouth more than met his expectations. “I am a better speaker, more broadly educated, more mature and professional, more social and confident and more empathetic. My teachers provided a web of support, both guiding and teaching. There were always opportunities to use the skills I was acquiring. I took methods classes before becoming a tutor, took a graduate level course, and collaborated with peers and faculty on academics. One faculty member put hours into helping me develop a paper to present at Plymouth’s Medieval Forum in April. Another helped me with the statement of purpose for my graduate school applications. Plymouth gets you ready for the world. I feel like a real human after being here—I look at the world differently” he said.
Professor Barbara Lopez-Mayhew commented, “The very first course Mike took with me was Spanish Culture and Civilization. As I’d speak about the music, art, history, gastronomy, monuments, multiple languages and literature of each region of Spain, Mike’s face would light up with an unforgettable smile. I knew then that he’d go on to graduate school for Spanish.”
Mike says it isn’t just studying that made him successful at PSU. The top student in the Department of Languages and Linguistics and a summa cum laude graduate, he had to have expert time management skills, collegial relationships with faculty and fellow students, and an appreciation for hard work.
In addition to a full course load, Farkas worked in a coffee shop off campus his first year, opening the shop at 5 a.m. and leaving at 11 a.m. for a class. He spent the next three years working at Foster’s Boiler Room restaurant at the Common Man Inn in Plymouth. He’ll be at Foster’s this summer earning money to put toward expenses for his first year as a graduate student in Spanish literature at Boston College, which he will attend on full scholarship and serve as a graduate teaching fellow.
He says working off campus gave him a good notion of being in the real world and provided opportunities for networking. “People like to talk. I share my story and give the best service I can. You get to know people better and you learn the value of a dollar,” he says. “I respect my education more because I am paying for it.”
On campus, Farkas has worked as a tutor in the department of Languages and Linguistics, supervised the language laboratory, and served as a department fellow.
Did he miss anything by working all those hours? “Perhaps time for extra reading and scholarly opportunities and perhaps to enable better work … it’s been challenging to balance all these responsibilities,” he says.
He stretched his limits studying abroad in Seville, Spain under PSU’s Study Away program for six months of his junior year, completing an intensive winter course and then studying at a private academy and at the University of Seville for spring semester. He says, “I was excited to speak Spanish 24/7. This is the Spanish peoples’ history and culture, and I was a part of it.”
The department faculty noticed that Mike’s linguistic skills soared during his semester abroad according to Professor Wilson Garcia. “We also noticed that he returned a more self-aware, compassionate and confident individual. I believe this transformation was possible because of the meaningful and everlasting bonds that Mike developed with the people and the culture of Spain,” Garcia says.
Even with all he has to say about Plymouth, Mike made it clear that the very best role models and supporters he has had have been his parents, who also worked their way through college holding many jobs. He says, “they taught me how to be a hard worker and a well rounded person.”