Student Stories

Théo Martin Théo Martin

French studies, COCC World Languages
Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree
Bachelor's degree in French and applied linguistics, Portland State University
Teaching assistant, France Education International

From teaching in vocational schools in Brittany to working at a secondary school in the suburbs of Paris, Théo Martin has forged a gratifying career as an English teacher in France.

Having grown up in Central and Eastern Oregon, Martin's interest in the French language only began to take hold toward the end of his high school experience — but it found new momentum at COCC. "I was able to benefit from multiple independent studies with Professor (Fleur) Prade that allowed me to explore subjects within French culture and language that I would otherwise have not been able to do," he shares. "This has made all the difference in my current career…and given me a competitive advantage in the job market."

For instance, Martin held a bilingual position in the financial sector made possible by material he learned in his "Introduction to French business writing" independent study. Independent studies at COCC, of 1-4 credits, are individualized, advanced studies that focus on a special interest not covered by another course.

"I consider COCC to be an excellent launching point for my education and ultimate career."

After receiving his associate degree at COCC and transferring to Portland State University, Martin attended Université de Poitiers in western France as the final component for his bachelor's degree in French and applied linguistics. His next academic pursuit, in France: a Master of Didactics in Language.

"I consider COCC to be an excellent launching point for my education and ultimate career," he says. "The faculty were experts in their domain, passionate, and always available to ensure that I was able to dive deeper into my subjects. It is astounding what my degree from COCC has allowed me to do with my life and what it will continue to permit me to accomplish with such a sound foundation."

Tatum Nielsen Tatum Nielsen

Spanish studies, COCC World Languages
Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree
Biochemistry and molecular biology major, Oregon State University-Cascades

Learning a new language not only builds practical skills, it also sparks new perspectives. "It allowed me to view things through a different lens than I was used to," explains Tatum Nielsen, who studied Spanish while earning a biochemistry- and molecular biology-focused associate degree at COCC. "This same process allowed me to see the things I was studying outside of Spanish class from a different viewpoint and deepened my understanding."

"It allowed me to view things through a different lens than I was used to."

Nielsen chose Spanish for its versatility. A world traveler who is working toward a career in the medical field, he hopes to utilize his newly acquired language skills in both his profession and his surfing and biking explorations. At COCC he created a for-credit surgical intern post with the St. Charles Health System, and is currently attaining a biochemistry and molecular biology degree at Oregon State University-Cascades.

"It was my goal to become conversational through my studies at COCC," adds Nielsen. "I would say I achieved that and more." Nielsen appreciated how his instructor provided many opportunities to use Spanish in real situations, encouraging mistakes as part of the learning process. "I have since used many of his study techniques and practical exercises to achieve a higher level of fluency as time has progressed."

Rachel Wallace Rachel Wallace

Mandarin Chinese studies, COCC World Languages
National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship recipient from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

Studying Mandarin at COCC opened up a vast new world for Rachel Wallace. Having sought out a new challenge to complement her other studies while at Bend's Summit High School, Wallace enrolled in Chinese language classes at COCC, an experience that allowed her to receive both high school and college credit.

Three years later — and with a two-week study abroad program in Beijing and Shanghai as part of her learning journey — Wallace's commitment to her studies took her all the way to Taiwan for a year of scholarship-covered college tuition at Tamkang University (her in-person experience was limited to six months due to pandemic restrictions). The prestigious scholarship came from the U.S. Department of State's National Security Language Initiative for Youth, a program centered on fostering diplomacy and preparing young American students for the globalized workforce.

The Chinese classes she took through COCC — and the guidance of an inspiring professor — have taken Wallace further than she thought possible. "I start with the University of Oregon's Chinese Flagship program in the fall," she says. "And right now, my interests are in international education and international relations, with a focus on Eastern Asia."