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Love of French leads to adventure, broader perspective

French major Rediet Medhane, '19, sees language as a powerful tool to connect with people across cultures. Last fall, she experienced this firsthand as she studied on Reunion Island, a French island in the Indian Ocean that she says has "a beautiful mix of European, Asian and African cultures and peoples."

During her time as an exchange student, she was able to explore, learn and grow. 

"I visited sandy beaches, swam with whales, hiked up active volcanoes, swam under waterfalls, attended music and religious festivals, and much more," she says.

Rediet Medhane smiles while covered in powdered paint.

Medhane's understanding of the French language broadened, and she gained a deeper love for her area of study.

"I learned new and fascinating things about French history and literature that only inspired me to pursue deeper knowledge and immersion," she says. "There is something powerful in being able to speak with someone in their native tongue, and I love how much more open my world is simply because I speak a second language."

Medhane is also majoring in math, and she hopes to incorporate that into her career by teaching French or math abroad in French-speaking Africa. She was inspired to teach in Africa because her parents are immigrants from Ethiopia. After she graduates, Medhane plans to pursue a master in teaching degree at Whitworth. 

At Whitworth, Medhane is involved in worship ministry, and she plays guitar and sings on a chapel team. She has been playing worship music since she was 13. During her sophomore year, she was a resident assistant in Stewart Hall, where she would help lead worship nights for residents. 

"Worship has always been a huge part of my life and my faith," Medhane says. "Because I so dearly love music, singing and playing instruments for the Lord, it is deeply special and significant to me."

While on Reunion Island, Medhane had to adjust to a new place, new school and new culture. This challenged her to examine her worldview.

"I learned how to adapt to new ways of viewing the world and how to be present and absorb my environment," she says. "I also saw my own culture and identity in a new light, which I was not expecting."

Medhane's faith was also stretched. She did not have a community of fellow Christians, which challenged her to find ways to worship.

"Experiences of real worship were somewhat scarce," she says, "so I really enjoy being back and serving as a leader on a chapel team."

One of the highlights of Medhane's time abroad was participating in Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. The festival consisted of a parade, fireworks, live music, dancing and re-enactments of the holiday's story.

"It was out of this world, and I felt so incredibly honored to have been warmly invited to partake in the celebration despite my status as a foreigner," Medhane says. 

The next day she enjoyed the Holi festival, where participants throw brightly colored powder at one another.

According to Medhane, learning another language expands her idea of the kingdom of God. 

"When you take the time to learn and speak another's language, you begin to see them as more similar to you instead of setting them aside as ‘other,' and you show that you find them important and worthy of being understood and known," she says. "You get to see a new part of humanity that God sees and loves."