Born and bred in Orange County, Danielle Buschini, sophomore, knows a thing or two about California. She talks fast, as if chasing an ever-setting West coast sun, with her own signature recipe of Valley twang and a friendly, confident tone. Make no mistake, however: she knows where she’s going. She knows where she’s been. She purports to know what her last name means—though Wikipedia may not. She knows 5 languages.

I first met Danielle—“Dani” for short—at Freshman Ready during the summer of 2017. I was immediately struck, even then, by how much she loves to learn. Musical, versatile, and already well on her way into the field of language study, no experience is lost on her as a catalyst for her development as a scholar. Buschini has what is known to college admissions offices as “intellectual curiosity” in spades.

Poised opposite me, this youngest-born stands ready to tell all—well, at least all I ask—about her life, her passions, her love of language, and about the curiosity that propels her forward toward her future.

SB: So, linguistics—how did you become interested in it?

DB: In 6th grade I performed in Carmen, the opera, at Segerstrom Hall and got that amazing opportunity. Carmen is an opera in French with a little bit of Spanish and we had a linguistics professor come in who knew everything about linguistics. He gave us the history of words and [he told us], “This is why this word sounds a lot like Spanish.” It really sparked my interest because I felt like, “Hey this is cool, I might want to do this with my life.”

SB: Right. So the similarities in languages is what sparked your interest.

DB: Yes. They are all romance languages, so they came from the language of Rome. That’s why Spanish, French and Italian are all similar. I find it interesting that you can speak one language, and another can speak another, and you can communicate pretty well, even if they aren’t exactly the same. I love the fact that we can figure out where our language will go and where it was. And we can use it to read old tablets and writings from past. For example, it can help us figure out the Rosetta stone . . .

SB: So what are you thinking of for a career?

DB: For me, I have two top hopes (I have realistic hopes and unrealistic hopes!). The unrealistic one is that I would join the FBI and become an interpreter [laughs], but that’s hard to do! So my realistic hope is that I move to Germany and teach ESL (English as a second language) there.

SB: Have you had any influencers who have inspired you?

DB: Definitely! My top 3 are Frau Schulte, Frau al-Jamie, and Mrs. Cummaudo. Frau Schulte got me into linguistics. She was my first German teacher, and so she showed me it’s really cool to speak several languages. I remember having a meeting with Mrs. Cummaudo about what can I do, what degree should I get, and I decided linguistics was the best degree for me. I can get an emphasis in something and get my Masters. And then Frau al-Jamie kind of took the path that I want to take so I really look up to her as a role model for where I want to be in a few years.

SB: So what are you taking at OLu this year?

DB: Here, I’m taking German and Spanish, and I’m in the second year of both of those classes. At home, I’m studying American Sign Language and French.

SB: Wow. That’s a lot.

DB: Yes and I’m also going to Italy for choir, so I’m trying to learn a little bit of Italian too.

SB: You’re a very intellectually curious person. What do you see as the greatest challenge facing learners today?

DB: I think the biggest challenge is that a lot of kids that think they have to take honors or AP classes. Which I’m learning is totally wrong! You don’t have to take honors or AP to be smart. I’m struggling a little bit because I decided to take all honors. I think it’s a big problem because a lot of people think, “I have to be in the top classes and I have to get A’s.”

SB: So it’s a big question, but where do you see yourself in 10 years? You’ve said you are in Germany, teaching . . .

DB: My goal is to have a college degree, have my Masters and teaching credential, and then start teaching. In the U.S., it’s hard to drive to another country and speak another language; we all speak English here. Meanwhile, in Europe, I could pop on a trip for a month or something and go speak 5 different languages in different countries.

SB: Cool. So how has OLu changed or shifted your perspective?

DB: Originally I thought I was going to take Spanish for high school. And then I went to OLu and realized, “Hey, I could take several languages!” So now I’m taking way more languages than I thought I would, but I love it. They’ve allowed me to learn more than I expected but still succeed and not burn out.

I came away from this meeting with a classmate further inspired to pursue my own avenues for learning. I was encouraged by her level-headed approach that seemed full of optimism, not only for her own generation, but for the ones coming after.

When our conversation was over, it occurred to me how little time we have—or what time we have, but don’t use—to get to know each other in this way. I’m sure each of us could tell the story of some of our unsung passions and unadvertised interests, but sometimes it takes an interview to remind us that this, hidden behind a thousand varied masks, walks around the halls of our school every day, waiting to be discovered.

Bumbled farewells in attempted languages dotted our departure. But my new friend is trying. Trying to reach out to those who are vastly different that herself and find common ground. That’s a tall order, even when you aren’t in Europe (yet). So next time you pass by her in the hall, say hi and rest assured this sophomore speaks your language. Bonjour. Hallo. Ciao. Olá. No matter the language, it will mean one thing: Hi, I get you. Let’s connect. Let’s learn. And it could be just the thing to change your friendship, your school, your country and your world, as Danielle Buschini intends to do.

Photo Credits: Pinterest