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Student Spotlights

Rachael Merrill: Applied English Linguistics

Rachael was a research assistant for BYU during Fall 2023.

Briefly explain what you did and the result of your internship.

I collaborated with my professor Dr. Moody on a research project that intertwined my two areas of study: Linguistics and Japanese. This project required hours of work each week over several months and provided me with a holistic research experience. I was able to experience each stage from the planning and development to the data collection to the analysis and final write up and presentation. The topic and question of this research project is one that I could expand on for many years and even take with me into a graduate program.

What did you learn on your internship that you were not expecting to learn?

I was not expecting to learn so much about building strong and lasting professional relationships. I went into the research project/internship really excited for the skills and experiences I would have personally, but nothing brought me more satisfaction than having a good relationship with my faculty mentor. That will last far beyond this project will.

How have your future plans changed because of what you learned from your internship experience?

I have a research project and experience that I can take with me into graduate school. It helped me narrow down my options for a masters. It also helped me network with the MTC to start finding meaningful applications and career options for the research that I am interested in.

Please share how your experience led to personal inspiration or insightful revelation.

I remember the very first conversation I had with Dr. Moody as one of his Japanese students one year ago. I remember he said something in class that caught my attention and I couldn't let go of it. I wanted to talk about it with him afterwards but another student occupied his attention. I walked away a little disappointed. I remember walking outside the building and down the steps and the Spirit was grabbing me and impressing me to turn around. So I did. I walked all the way back to the classroom to find Dr. Moody just finishing with the other student. I spoke with him and he lit a flame of joy and passion in me for Japanese and linguistics and missionary work. He enabled and guided me to start designing my own education and future, rather than just following the typical path of a linguistics student. I'm so grateful that the Spirit didn't give up on my timid heart a year ago, because that one moment set me on a God-directed path that has brought me so much joy, growth, and passion for what I can do to change the world.

Would you recommend this internship to other students?

Yes! Because it was very individually driven, it showed me that I can personally design the education and career path that I want. Not many students have taken this initiative to this level, and I hope it inspires others.

Is there anything else you would like to say regarding your internship? Why?

This was the highlight experience of my undergraduate education, and I'm so grateful I followed the revelation to talk to my professor. Those small and simple inspirations led to great experiences.

My internship allowed me to travel to Japan to collect conversational data for my sociolinguistic research project! This picture was taken at the Heian-jingu Shrine in Kyoto Japan.