Alisa Rhodes only just graduated from the University of Maine with a bachelor’s degree in English and Romance Languages, but she already has found a way to put her education to good use.
She has taken a job as an English language assistant in a public school in the town of La Cañiza in Galicia, Spain.
“I’ll be helping the English teacher as he or she instructs 6-16 year-old students about U.S. culture as well as about English vocabulary and grammar,” says Rhodes, who spent two semesters in Spain during her junior year and fell in love with the country. Thrilled at the prospect of living there for another year or two, she says her new job comes at the perfect time.
“I have been thinking about teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). So this job is a great opportunity to travel abroad and test the waters to decide if teaching ESL is really what I want to do.”
An Illinois native, Rhodes chose to attend UMaine because she could major in Romance Languages. “It was a way that I could study more than one language at once and learn as much about languages as possible,” says Rhodes who visited the Orono campus as a high school student and was impressed by its beauty and vitality.
She thoroughly enjoyed her time at UMaine, calling her Modern Languages and Classics courses challenging and interesting, and praising the professors who, she says, “really cared about their students.
“Not only were they excellent teachers, but they were always approachable,” she continues. ”Because of that, students were able to forge personal relationships with them and there was a real community feeling in the MLC department.”
Serving as president of both the French and Spanish clubs was among the highlights of her undergraduate years. “It was one of the best experiences I had at UMaine,” says Rhodes. “It was a lot of work because I had to come up with activities and fundraisers, but it really helped my leadership and organizational skills which I know I will use in my career.”
Studying for two semesters in Bilbao in northern Spain, where she attended the University of the Basque Country, was another memorable experience that Rhodes says helped her grow personally, gain a global perspective, and reinforce her commitment to foreign language study. Her study abroad also enabled her to improve her oral and written Spanish skills, according to Rhodes, who was so impressed by one of her professors that, for her Honors Thesis, she decided to translate into English a book of poetry that he wrote.
Translating the poetry was difficult because it was not only important to get the most accurate translation possible, but also to keep the word games, the alliteration, and the rhythm of the poetry, she says. “The biggest challenge was to make the Spanish poetry make sense in English because there were a lot of times where he would use a play on words in the poetry and I had to figure out how to make that still seem like a play on words in English. My MLC thesis advisor, Spanish Professor Kathleen March, was a big help.”
In addition to her studies in Spain, she worked at the town library where she helped people find books and use the computer.
“I wasn’t allowed to speak English,” she says, “so people had no idea that I wasn’t a native Spanish speaker. They’d come in and fire off questions and so I really had to be on my toes. It was a great experience. It was the one thing that helped my Spanish-speaking skills the most.”