Lawyer Alexis Lambert received the Outstanding Young Alumni (OYA) Award from the UF Alumni Association earlier this year
Nineteen years after graduation, people still ask me why I chose Spanish as my major. It certainly wasn’t my original plan; having scored a 5 on the AP Spanish exam, I had already satisfied UF’s foreign language requirement. But I decided to take one class in the department at UF to see what it was like. We never knew what was coming in Professor Pharies’ class, but it was always interesting and fun. I realized that majoring in Spanish would give me all the advantages of a small, liberal arts college experience without having to sacrifice the perks of a big school.
I read the Quijote with Professor Armon, learned about modern Peninsular literature with Professor Nichols, and studied Latin American film and culture with Professor Avellaneda. It was a great mix of art, culture, history, and politics.
During my second year of law school, we studied a case that hinged on the meaning of the verb deber. In this case, the defendant moved to suppress statements he made after he was arrested. He had said “debo yo llamar a mi abogado” to the police officer. With only a transcript and no audio, the court had to weigh whether the defendant was asking if he should call his lawyer or saying that he must call his lawyer.
Throughout my career, Spanish has come in handy. Whether it was translating press releases or interpreting in constituent meetings, being bilingual has made me more employable in a competitive job market. I’ve also used my language skills in volunteer work. Every summer, I serve as a translator to a team of American medical professionals who provide free surgical care to patients in Antigua, Guatemala. This year, I had to tell a 36 year old patient he had the same cancer that I did. I told him he could cry for one day but then had to go to war; I was beating the disease, and he could, too. He came back the next day with labs and images indicating the best of a bad situation: only one cancer, in only one place. With surgery and radiation, he would be changed, but not destroyed — just like me.
My education at UF refined a skill that has allowed me to meet incredible people, see beautiful places, and experience life way beyond my suburban South Florida upbringing. I’m forever grateful.
To learn more about the Outstanding Young Alumni (OYA) Award, click here.