Cristina Fernández Méndez '09C

Vice President of Gamma Kappa Alpha Italian Honor Society

It’s not everyday that you meet a 21 year old who has lived in three countries and fluently speaks four languages.

“I was born in Moscow, moved to Madrid when I was three years old and have lived in the U.S. ever since I was 12 – I truly believe you don’t know the world until you see it,” says Cristina Fernández Méndez '09C, recent graduate from St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Because of her international childhood, Cristina says she developed a passion for studying languages and cultures, “As a kid, traveling with my parents was my favorite thing to do. My mother is Russian and my father is from Spain – so wherever we lived, we would always travel and explore new parts of the country. My parents always taught me to appreciate different cultures and take time to understand where people come from.”

Cristina says she always wanted to learn Italian, so when she came to St. John’s she decided to enroll in St. John’s Italian language and literature program. She feels the best way to learn a language is to be fully immersed in the culture, so she spent a semester abroad at St. John’s Rome, Italy campus during her sophomore year.

“My interest in Italian culture began when I was in high school, so when I got the chance to live and learn in Rome through the global studies program, it was the perfect opportunity for me to become fluent in Italian. I enjoyed learning about the language, arts and culture so much that when the semester was over, I decided to stay and spend the summer in Italy.”

When she took a break from traveling or learning a new language, Cristina could be found helping out with events as the Vice President of Gamma Kappa Alpha Italian Honor Society, singing with the Voices of Victory gospel choir or participating in community service with the Italian Cultural Society.

Cristina's plan post-graduation is to get involved in social justice issues. She is specifically interested in becoming an advocate for children’s and women’s rights and is in the process of completing an independent study on human trafficking in South East Asia:

“After a discussion about social justice in my international communications class, I went home and decided I had to make a difference. I felt it was my duty to get involved in some way because let's face it, this is our world, and we are its future.”

What is next for this burgeoning activist and linguist? “I’m currently learning Mandarin, so I plan to go to China to perfect it, which would mean I’ll then speak five languages fluently – including Russian, Spanish, Italian and English. Learning languages can be challenging but I’m willing to learn anything and everything I can get my hands on.”