Robert Smith


B.A. German 1993 | B.A. Chemistry 1993
Study Abroad 1987-1988: Germany, Heidelberg University

Restaurant Owner

How did your studies in language and culture prepare you for your current job?
Although I started out at CSULB studying Chemistry on a determined path to study medicine, the requirement of the chemistry department to have reading knowledge of German (one semester) exposed me to a passion for language, culture, travel and food that I had not yet discovered. My first year German professor, Wilm Pelters, inspired me as a freshman when he said, “if you really want to learn German, you must go there.” I continued studying German for two years and applied for the university’s exchange program in Heidelberg my junior year. I elected to pursue a double major in both Chemistry and German when I returned from studying abroad. To obtain a German degree, I was required to study two years of another language, so I elected to study Spanish one year at CSULB and I completed the second year requirement by studying abroad in Malaga, Spain at an intensive language institute, M├ílaca Instituto. The year I studied abroad Germany, 1987/1988, the Berlin wall was still standing and we were allowed to travel through communist East Germany on a special visa. We never imagined that Germany would be reunited a year later.

After graduating, I moved to England where I have family and found a job exporting computer hardware to Germany and other European countries. During this time, I discovered my passion for food and food-service and decided after four years to change careers. I have found that both the language and science studies I began at CSULB ignited a passion to continue learning. Being in the Italian restaurant business, I find myself frequently in Italy for food and wine-related visits and wanting to learn more Italian in order to become conversationally proficient.

Do you have any advice for students considering language and culture study?
Without wanting to be excessively wordy, I have to mention my friend and mentor, Dr. Ken Marsi, who was the Chemistry Department Chairman during my years of study. I approached Dr. Marsi for advice when I was failing inorganic chemistry. We really hit it off despite my struggles as a student and over time Dr. Marsi got me chemistry-related jobs at Honda Motors, Baxter Biotech, and LaserTech, a manufacturer of FTIR equipment. If I could go back and advise any student entering CSULB, I would say get to know your professors and department leaders. University study is forty percent about direct learning of information and sixty percent about developing an open mind and forming relationships that will help to enrich and expand your mind.