In 1993, when Montclair State University senior Rafael Auz was just 4 years old, Richard Clayderman, a famous French pianist, performed in Rafael’s native Ecuador. Rafael and his parents attended the concert. At that point, Rafael could already play the piano, and could speak a few words of French. During the intermission, his parents brought Rafael to the stage and introduced him to Clayderman. Clayderman was so taken by Rafael that he invited him to play for the audience. The event made the local newspapers and was discussed on an Ecuadorian television program similar to Letterman. As a result, four invitations to play in Europe followed and Rafael’s family accepted, traveling to Europe.
After the European trip, though, no other opportunities came Rafael’s way, and his parents were not happy about his. In the mid-1990s they immigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life. At first, Rafael stayed in Ecuador with his grandmother, but by 1999, his parents were ready for him to join them in the US permanently.
Rafael thrived in the U.S., learning English quickly, earning excellent grades in middle school, and playing the piano in school and in churches. Because of his grades, he was accepted to St. Peter’s Prep, a prestigious Jesuit high school in Jersey City. And it was at St. Peter’s that Rafael discovered his love of languages. He started to study French during his sophomore year and quickly advanced to honors classes. By the time he graduated, he had 103% average in French.
Rafael chose Montclair State after visiting a friend on campus and taking a tour. His major is French Translation, but his professors saw his gift for languages and encouraged him to learn other languages as well. Rafael took German, Chinese, Arabic and Russian classes, eventually deciding to minor in Arabic and Russian. As a junior, Rafael spent a semester studying abroad in China, and decided to add Chinese to his list of minors. In his “spare time,” Rafael taught himself Spanish, Italian, Korean and Japanese. During his time at Montclair State, he won “Best Essay” awards for essays written in French, Russian, Chinese and Arabic.
Having graduated on the Dean’s list, Rafael was accepted into Monclair State’s Master’s program in French and will start in January 2014.