LCTL Student Spotlight: Meet Dirk

Dirk Gillespie is a senior Ecology and Evolution major, who is also pursuing the African Studies Certificate and a minor in Swahili. Dirk is attending Pitt as a part of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program and hopes to use his Swahili skills in his career as a Naval Officer! 

Why did you choose Pitt?

I received a scholarship to attend Pitt through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in?

I am a member of the NROTC battalion here in Pittsburgh, hosted at Carnegie Mellon University.

What is your plan for after graduation?

Commission in the U.S. Navy and attend Naval Flight School in Pensacola, Florida.

Did you have any previous second-language exposure before coming to Pitt?

Yes, I had taken 4 years of Spanish in high school, but wasn’t great at it.

How did you become interested in studying Swahili?

I found out about a scholarship through the Department of Defense that would allow me to travel to Tanzania and study Swahili for 2 months.

How does studying Swahili fit into your future plans?

I plan to keep studying Swahili and hopefully at some point it may be useful as part of my career as a Naval Officer.

What has been your best experience using Swahili?

My best experience using Swahili has been my time in Tanzania when I was able to communicate with my homestay family as well as other people I came into contact with in their native language. It opened up a whole new way of experiencing their culture and made people be much more open to me than I think they otherwise would have been.

What has knowing/studying Swahili allowed you to do that you would not have been able to do otherwise?

Aside from giving me the opportunity to travel to Tanzania, studying Swahili has also given me the opportunity to meet a whole new community of people at Pitt who also speak Swahili who I otherwise never would have known.