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Highland Rambler

Français! Cela Simple Comme Bonjour!

French! It’s As Simple As Hello!
Alice+Gettig+is+Highlands+world+language+Sterling+Scholar
Billie Martinez & Red Gunn
Alice Gettig is Highland’s world language Sterling Scholar

It takes a special kind of person to learn another language. Most people only ever learn one. But not Alice Gettig. She knows five.

She is fluent in both French and English, can get by in Spanish, and is learning both German and Latin.

But it’s her second language, French, that awarded her Highland’s world language Sterling Scholar.

Gettig does much more than just study languages. She’s the editor-in-chief of the yearbook, she’s in the National Honors Society, French Club, she’s the Vice President of Utah Student Led Chess Association, and she started Film Club. Quite a bit to handle, but Gettig handles them “avec facilité”… (that means “with ease” for everyone not as gifted in French).

“It’s spinning a lot of plates, and spinning them all successfully,” Kyle Dittmer, a physics teacher at Highland, said. “Not a lot of people are capable of keeping all of those types of things going; requires a lot of organization and following through and executive function, which a lot of people I’m sure wish that they had more of. So, they’ll be pretty successful wherever they end up landing with all of those skills.”

Gettig grew up in a very language-based household.

“Language learning is a big deal in my family,” Gettig said. “I am actually the third generation of world language Sterling Scholars.”

Her older sister, Lucy Borup-Douglas, who speaks both English and Spanish, completely agrees.

“Alice has been a pretty dedicated language learner,” Douglas said. “She’s memorized every country’s flag, so, when I think of Alice, I think of kind of a worldly perspective. And I know she has aspirations of learning another language, which I am always impressed by.”

But it wasn’t here that gave Gettig an advantage in the language world. It was the six weeks she spent at the Institut Catholique de Paris, living as a foreign-exchange student that cemented Gettig’s skills in French.

While there, her host-mother made sure that she got immersed in the culture.

“She was like, ‘do you guys wanna go dancing?’ And I thought I was mishearing her…I was so jetlagged, and she was like, ‘yeah, let’s go dancing…She was a filmmaker, so she was bringing us to this set of this documentary she was doing,” Gettig said. “But it was this traditional Italian dance class or group, I guess, and me and my roommate just got to join in and learn this dance…it felt so good to do that after being so jetlagged for some reason. Because after the whole thing, we were dying and sweaty and exhausted, and then we slept on the way back, and it was the best sleep I’ve ever had. It was just a really cool experience to get immersed in the culture so immediately.”

But Gettig’s life doesn’t revolve around learning a foreign language. She’s involved in a variety of clubs, is very involved in the physics department, and has a vibrant social life, something many people want but few can achieve.

To do all these things, Gettig has a tested philosophy on how she manages her time.

“I kind of break my schedule down into things that are solid time commitments and then more flexible ones. So, stuff like club meetings, or like obviously school, or stuff like that that I can’t move, that just stays in my schedule, and I never plan anything by that,” Gettig said. “And then stuff that’s more malleable, so like, practicing for stuff or things that aren’t necessarily stuck to a certain time, I kind of base those around my social schedule, which most people advise you against, but in my experience, it’s worked pretty well.”

Gettig’s time management skills allow her to run a very successful yearbook, be a member of NHS, a part of French Club, and be a very active member in the chess community, something that’s developed rather recently after a long hiatus.

As a kid, Gettig played the game quite often to pass the time while she was sick. But it wasn’t until she got into the physics department under Dittmer that her spark for the game was reignited.

“I remember it very vividly, I was walking down to the Club Fair or like Back to School Night or whatever with Madam McCurdy to set up the French table, and I saw Dittmer on the stairs and, I was like ‘hey Mr. Dittmer, when’s Chess Club?’ And he’s like ‘Thursday,’ and I didn’t have anything going on on Thursday. So, I was like, ‘I’ll be there.”

Gettig’s newfound passion for chess has also brought forth an extroverted side, a side of her that she disagrees on its existence.

“One time, me, her [Gettig],  and her friend Marilyn went to Coffee Garden, and this old man, who introduced himself as ‘Chess,’ had a chess board out and Alice just went up and asked to play, and so, she just played this stranger in this Coffee Garden, and I thought it was just very touching,” Fran Frampton, Gettig’s “platonic soulmate,” said. “Just this person that she never met before and she did lose, but I think that’s okay.”

“This is a point of controversy. I think that I’m an introvert, but I think that when I’m comfortable with people, I will be a lot more energetic just because I feel comfortable doing so.” Gettig said. “I definitely highly value my alone time. The second I get home, I kind of just shut down and shut up. But yeah, I do enjoy people.”

This love of people also extends to her dog, Daisy.

“She’s great,” Gettig said. “I think she’s like me, if I was a dog.”

Gettig’s closeness to her sister, and the seven-year age difference, has shaped her as a person. From long car rides in the backseat together to a collective love of Arrested Development, Douglas has turned Gettig into the person she is today.

“Alice is really funny. That’s one of the first things that comes to mind when I think about her. She always makes me laugh,” Douglas said. “She’s really witty. Even when she was a little kid, she would say things or jokes that would catch me off guard and I’d be like, ‘oh my gosh, you’re funny for a five-year-old and I’m 12.”

This wittiness, coupled with her energetic nature, will take Gettig far in life.

“Alice is just easy to connect with,” Frampton said. “Maybe that’s just me, but Alice is just so energetic and so awesome to be with. I think Alice once described herself as an introvert…But I don’t think that’s true. I think that Alice just loves to be with people and loves talking to people.”

Of course, one can’t talk about Gettig without mentioning her love for movies.

She avidly consumes movies, with some of her favorites being Leon the Professional, Chinatown, and Amelié.

“Every year for her birthday, she asks me to get her a new Letterbox subscription,” Douglas said. “But that’s something that she and I talk about a lot, is she’ll always ask me if I’ve seen movies recently, and then we’ll go to them together and that kind of thing.”

“I love stories,” Gettig said, “but I’m not very good at reading. So, I think this is the best opportunity that I have to immerse myself in that world, and I also just think it’s a really well-rounded art. You’ve got music, you’ve got acting, and story and plot and all that stuff together. It’s a great combination.”

Gettig plans on combining her creative love with her aptitude for numbers and patterns by going into research psychology at the University of Washington.

While Gettig’s active life might seem like just a dream to many, she says that all it takes is a willingness to take a risk.

“I’d say give yourself a chance at anything,” Gettig said. “I feel like, pretty early on, in early high school, I was really hesitant to try, not even try new things, but just explore things that I might be bad at or situations I’m not comfortable in. And then, I feel like once I was able to just get over that and, you know, allow myself to mess up or learn it was a lot more beneficial. And the things that I am able to say that I’ve accomplished now are because I allowed myself to mess up then.”

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