For first-generation college student Sarah Davila, growing up near the sunny Florida coast consisted of playing on the beach, learning English in school and making traditional Colombian food with her mom. Davila’s parents had moved to the United States a few months before Davila was born, hoping to provide her with a bright future.
With her parents’ encouragement, Davila decided that she wanted to attend college, despite the numerous obstacles she faced and her feelings of intimidation. If Davila was accepted at a university, she would be the first person in her family to attend college. Even though she could have gotten a full-tuition scholarship in her home state, Davila applied to only her dream school: Brigham Young University.
“I knew I wanted to go to a university, but I had no idea where to start,” said Davila. “It was a big risk for me to apply only to BYU, but I knew that there was no other school that would mix my faith with my education.”
After arriving in Provo and enrolling in classes, Davila realized that her decisions regarding a college education were far from over. Settling on her current major, linguistics, was a difficult journey of self-discovery. She initially declared herself a chemical engineering major but felt that there was something missing.
Davila spent the next few months meeting with academic and career counselors, taking student development classes and completing aptitude assessments, hoping that something would lead her to find the missing piece and the perfect major. When Davila’s husband suggested that she use her natural abilities for languages in her college education, linguistics seemed like the most natural choice.
Looking back, Davila recognizes that God gave her opportunities to prepare for her current studies and job long before she applied to BYU. Davila grew up speaking Spanish in her home before learning English in school. She learned a third language for her mission to Brazil, where she became fluent in Portuguese. Davila worked at the MTC as a translator and as a Spanish instructor on campus. Now, she is the language coordinator at BYU Speeches, where she oversees multiple translators working with four different languages.
Until recently, the speeches given at Tuesday devotionals and forums had been available only in English. But thanks to Davila’s language skills, along with those of other students, BYU speeches are now being translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French and Japanese. Understanding both Spanish and Portuguese helps Davila express not only what the speakers are literally saying but also the message and spirit they are trying to convey. She often must use innovation and inspiration to oversee translations.
“My experiences at BYU have been empowering. The fact that there can be a beautiful blend of scholarly and spiritual knowledge is incredibly special. To be able to learn this way has been irreplaceable to my testimony.”
“My experiences at BYU have been empowering,” said Davila. “The fact that there can be a beautiful blend of scholarly and spiritual knowledge is incredibly special. To be able to learn this way has been irreplaceable to my testimony.”
Davila’s experience and example have opened academic doors for her as well as for her family. Davila’s mom is now attending a state college in Florida with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. Davila will graduate in the fall of 2024 and plans to go on to graduate school.