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USF student inspired about audiology since she was in the second grade

The first time I heard of audiology, I was an eager-to-learn, second-grader just beginning to realize there are some people with hearing problems. My mother received bilateral hearing aids, which changed her life for the better. But now she was wearing these small little devices behind her ears that I did not understand. At the same time, I discovered my new next-door neighbor worked for a cochlear implant manufacturing company. Did I know what the entailed? No. But I was told she helped people hear better and that seemed nothing short of amazing to me. One day, many years later, during my first year of college I visited a friend from high school and we swapped stories about our classes, new friends, and life goals. I told her I wanted to work with kids with disabilities but was unsure of the path. I had always dreamed of being a gymnastics instructor for children with Down Syndrome, which seemed a much more feasible career option for a 10-year-old gymnast, then a 19-year-old college student. My friend told me she was pursuing a degree in speech language pathology and she had ample opportunity to work with children with atypical development. I was inspired to pursued a degree in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at University of Colorado and I never looked back.

During my college career, I was invited to attend the William F House Study Group at the 2014 American Academy of Otolaryngology conference in Orlando, FL as a personal assistant to the Vice President of MED-EL, who had been my next-door neighbor all those years earlier. I had the unique opportunity to attend the presentations by Cochlear, MED-EL and Advanced Bionics about recent advancements in their cochlear technologies. I was a humble undergraduate student attending a meeting with surgeons, corporate representatives and amazing audiologists who had been in the field for decades. I saw my future self, working for a manufacturing company, enjoying the stability of a full-time job. Which was so important at a time where the unemployment rate was so high and people with college degrees couldn’t necessarily get good jobs post graduation. My head said this was an outstanding logical choice of career paths.

In 2014, I chose to study abroad in South America. During my time in Chile I attended school, traveled and volunteered with an organization titled ADAPTA which provided educational and vocational services to children with Down Syndrome, ranging from 1 year to 19 years old. This was right up my alley and reminded me of my childhood dream, only this time I wasn’t teaching gymnastics, I was teaching Zumba. Twice a week my best friend and I would head over to the ADAPTA headquarters after a long day of school and dance with the teenagers. One of the boys in the class had two hearing aids and I was fascinated. Throughout the months of working there, I helped him change batteries, clean the hearing aids, and adjust the volume. I was coming full circle and having opportunities to do what I had always wanted in the field I had chosen to pursue. It was such a small part of the overall study abroad experience, but it was the first experience that I had within the field of audiology which appealed to my heart.

After returning to the United States, I applied to universities in the South-Eastern region of the United States. Here I am 3 years later at University of South Florida, over half way done with my doctorate of audiology and loving all that it has to offer me.

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Kalene Gutman

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