An update from Kylie Maurer, Spanish major at Illinois State.

I am a transfer student originally from Normal but transferred back home in order to be near my family and support system after some family tragedies and an ongoing battle with mental health.  College can be an incredibly trying time for many students and I encourage anyone who needs help to reach out and take advantage of the resources available to them. There is so much hope!

Before settling on Spanish I seriously considered many different majors, including but not limited to: communication, sociology, dance, biology, kinesiology, bilingual elementary education, and more. Eventually I realized that Spanish is right for me, because it is a tangible skill and I am fascinated by how culture impacts communication.

In high school I lived in Costa Rica during the summer. I fell head over heels in love with the language and culture and was so proud to be able to clearly speak to people who come from what seemed like a different world from me. Nowadays the worlds don’t seem all that different but I still love developing the ability to understand more deeply.

Life as a language student is busy, but joyfully so. The mix of students in classes keeps things interesting, from native speakers to first time learners to graduate students. The conversation in class is a mishmash of English and Spanish, though of course mostly Spanish at the higher level. I appreciate the engaged and surprisingly funny professors within the ISU Spanish program. Language learning and bilingualism is comical! There are so many mistakes to be made and cultural anecdotes to understand that the conversation often spills over into the hallway or the next class. The work is challenging, but the professors and students form an excellent team.

I decided to complete college in three and a half years instead of the traditional four so I have kept thoroughly busy. On top of school I work two jobs, one as a barista and the other as an Assistant Librarian at the Normal Public Library where I indulge my love of reading and literature while maintaining connections with the wider Bloomington-Normal area, outside of just college students. I also volunteer as an Assistant Teacher at the English Language Institute at Illinois State where I help foreign students develop English language skills and provide a smiling, energetic face at eight in the morning. The students vary greatly in level so I am there to help differentiate the lesson and instruction based on the student’s ability. The students travel from all over the world, often times without their family or any local connection, to attend the program. They are all incredible students and adventurers. I recommend that any student interested in language, international relations or education ask to be involved or help at the English Language Institute. It is challenging but that is overshadowed by the opportunity to make new friends from across the globe.

The end of my time at Illinois is quickly approaching and I am still figuring out what comes next. I plan to teach English abroad in a Spanish speaking country so as to increase my teaching ability and experience while also improving my Spanish skills. Hopefully this endeavor will lead to further work in other countries. My short-term dream is to teach English and live in Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Japan, Vietnam and Brazil, then possibly go on get a master’s degree in TESOL. After all that, I hope to settle down and pursue my passion for nature and farming, either as an organic farmer and bed and breakfast owner or multilingual nature educator or bilingual personal trainer or a Mary Poppins-type nanny figure who not only has great taste in handbags but also teaches children language skills. But who knows? Clearly I can’t be pinned down and long ago I stopped trying to fit any box. The future is coming and I’m ready for whatever it brings.

I am so thankful to all the incredible professors at Illinois State and the Spanish major for teaching me to think deeply and critically and to take myself a little bit less seriously.