Jen Weber is a senior majoring in Communication Science and Disorders, as well as Psychology, who is also working toward completing her American Sign Language Certificate. She hopes the knowledge she's attained studying ASL will allow her to provide the best care for her future patients as an Audiologist!
Why did you choose Pitt?
I chose Pitt because I loved the programs available and the campus atmosphere.
Are you a member of any organizations on campus?
Pitt Dance Marathon and the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association.
Did you have any previous second-language exposure before coming to Pitt?
I took Spanish in elementary school and German throughout middle and high school.
How did you become interested in studying American Sign Language?
I became interested in American Sign Language (ASL) when I was in high school and saw some media portrayals of the people in the Deaf community that used ASL as their mode of communication. There weren't opportunities for me to learn ASL in my hometown or in my high school so I dropped the interest until later. Once I came to Pitt and started my degree in Communication Science and Disorders, I enrolled in an ASL course to see if my interest was still there and it was!
How does studying this language fit into your future plans?
I am planning to become a pediatric audiologist in the future and hopefully will work predominantly with Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. I want to be able to use ASL when communicating with those clients so nothing can be lost in interpretation.
What has been your best experience using this language?
I have been able to meet and converse with so many people that I wouldn't have otherwise. I was also able to study abroad in London and learn British Sign Language while being fully immersed in ASL with my classmates and professors. Learning ASL and Deaf culture have opened my eyes to so much I never would have noticed if I hadn't had this opportunity.
What is the greatest challenge with learning this language?
The greatest challenge I have faced is being able to retrain my brain to see things differently than I used to. It took a little while to get used to the visual and spatial aspects of ASL that spoken languages don't have.
What has knowing/studying this language allowed you to do that you would not have been able to do otherwise?
I was able to study abroad in London two summers ago and had a drastically different experience than I would have if I had traveled there in a different context. It has also allowed me to find the population of people I would like to work with as a future audiologist. ASL is also used by individuals who are non-verbal or who may benefit from using a manual mode of communication. Thus, I am able to reach so many more people now than I was before.