Alexandra Barzin: Kinesiology grad to teach English in Thailand

Alexandra Barzin
After graduating from the University of Maine this summer with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science, Alexandra Barzin is already off to her next adventure.

The Jamestown, Rhode Island native has accepted a teaching position in Thailand. Barzin, who will teach English, says she’s a little nervous, but mostly excited.

“I have always wanted to go on an international adventure and force myself to get out of my comfort zone,” she says. “I will be living in Thailand for at least six months, maybe longer if I love it.”

In her quest to teach abroad, Barzin got from help from one of her UMaine professors. Stephen Butterfield, chair of the Kinesiology, Physical Education and Athletic Training Department with the College of Education and Human Development, wrote her a letter-of-recommendation before he retired at the end of the 2015–16 school year.

“Dr. Butterfield is always so supportive and so passionate about what he teaches,” Barzin says. “I can truly say I’ve taken so much academically and personally from being in his classes. He is the most amazing professor I’ve been lucky to have.”

When she returns to the states, Barzin says she plans to pursue a master’s degree in occupational therapy. But she’ll always have fond memories of UMaine and the people and classes that helped broaden her horizons.

Why UMaine?
I chose to go to UMaine because I have family who graduated from here, and when I came I fell in love with the campus. Everyone at Accepted Students’ Day was so friendly. It just felt really right to come here. I also wanted to be far enough away from home, so I would be getting the “college experience,” but still close enough that I could go home as I needed. UMaine was the best of both worlds for me, and the best choice I could have made.

How would you describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine?
I would describe the academic atmosphere as supportive and inspiring. I am lucky enough to say I came out of UMaine with lifelong friends who have supported me all along my academic journey who have also inspired me to become the person I am today. I also find it encouraging that I never felt intimidated to ask questions or for help from professors, which I don’t think is always the case when people go to college. The staff at UMaine taught me so much, and have prepared me for my next chapter in life.

Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, and if so, who and how?
Honestly, all of the professors in the Kinesiology Department have made a profound impact on my UMaine experience. Dr. Butterfield in particular stands out to me.

Have you had an experience at UMaine — either academically or socially — that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?
I joined the Black Bear Mentors program my junior year of college. This organization absolutely changed and shaped the way I see the world. We worked with local children who had social or emotional difficulties. I was paired with one student for two years who inspired me every time I was with him. Although he did not have a lot, he always was teaching me new things and opening my eyes to so many life lessons. He taught me that just because you may not physically have a lot, it does not mean you’re not rich with spirit and compassion. He has so many dreams and goals that he had shared with me, he has inspired me to never give up on my dreams, no matter how hard the situation may be.

Describe UMaine in one word.

What is your most memorable UMaine moment?
My most memorable UMaine moment was probably when I graduated. It was an amazing feeling of accomplishment to walk across the stage and receive my diploma.

What do you hope to do after graduation and how has UMaine helped you reach those goals?
I have recently been accepted to teach English in Thailand. UMaine helped me reach this goal by the support of my adviser and former professors. Without their encouragement I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this dream. When I return home, I plan on applying to graduate school to earn a master’s in occupational therapy. UMaine has prepared me academically to reach for this goal and succeed.

Have you participated in any internships or co-ops related to your major? Tell us about them and how your experience in the classroom helped prepare you.
I recently finished an internship at New England Rehab Hospital of Portland. I was working with both an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. Over the past few years of studying kinesiology, I did a lot of hands-on learning of the body. At times, I felt very overwhelmed because I never thought I would be able to remember it all, there was just so much. I felt so confident at times during my internship because a therapist would discuss the anatomy of a diagnosis and I would understand what she was saying, whether it be understanding a part of the brain affected by a stroke or being able to understand the long-term or short-term impacts of a spinal cord injury. My time in the kinesiology department taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined. I am truly forever thankful for that.

What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine?
The most engaging and helpful class I took as an undergrad was Butterfield’s Adapted Physical Education. It was so hands-on. Although we were teaching students with physical and mental disabilities, I felt like I was learning so much more from them then they were from me.

Have you gained any hands-on or real-world experience through your coursework? If so, tell us about it.
I really was able to use the knowledge I gained in the classroom during my internship. I was able to observe the patient like a therapist would and understand anatomically what possibly could be wrong with the patient and how the exercise they would prescribe would benefit them.

What difference has UMaine made in your life?
I came to the University of Maine not knowing one person and not extremely confident academically. I left UMaine with lifelong friends and an education that could never be replaced. I learned so much about myself and from my classes. The support and knowledge I have received here has made me so much more confident as a person. I can truly say I am not the same person I first started as. I will always love UMaine and will always appreciate what I have learned there.