Nicolás Correa: the soft-spoken, but no less verbose, teaching assistant working within the Spanish department on campus. To most of the Spanish students, he is known as the teacher who is always laughing. But who is he? To answer that, he will have to tell you.

Nicolas Correa: “I’m from Colombia, born in the capital city of Bogota. I grew up with my parents until I was 6 and then my brother was born and my father passed, and so from 7 years old to when I was 21, I lived with my mother and my brother. I went to a catholic school. Wow, I can tell you a lot about my childhood. I lived with my mother and my grandmother until she passed, and we lived in an apartment right in front of the park. I did a lot of physical activity at least until I was 16; I played volleyball and basketball and soccer.

William Ebert: Why did you decide to learn languages as a careers path?

NC: I like to think that in my life, all my big important decisions have come from very traumatic moments. I have been learning English since I was a baby since my mother would speak to me and my brother in English and back then I used to read comics in English, so I was always really into English. And then when I was probably in 4th grade, one of my teachers, one of my English teachers, asked “How do you say ‘jugar’ in English?” And I raised my hand but she never called on me. So eventually I just yelled the answer: “you know, it is to play.” And she asked, “Then why didn’t you say the answer? Why would you let people guess if you knew?” So I knew the answer and she told me off, so that was very upsetting. I remember my mother wanted me to be a business administrator, work in a bank, but I didn’t want to make tons of money, I wanted to be an English teacher. But where was I? Oh yeah, I remember: it was about when I discovered that I liked listening to myself. Yeah, that is a good thing to find out when you want to be a teacher – not only listening to myself, but talking to myself to others teaches me a lot, more than I learn or have learned from studying. Speaking and listening is my learning style, but listening to myself is my super-learning style, more than I learned in college in five years. But college is still very important. Stay in college, don’t drop out!

WE: What do you think of America?

NC: It has been really impressive. I was in New York City for a day and then I was in Boston, and then I was here in Lewiston. When I got off the airplane, I went to New York. And it was really strange to see all these people all the time, it was, like, full all the time, and it gave me a headache. Yeah, but it was really interesting; it was an organized chaos. The buildings of course made me very dizzy, like ‘Whoa that is so high!’ I was also always thinking, “where are all these people going?” But America is just what I imagined, except for one thing: when you think of America, you think about the cities, but you never think about what connects those cities. The first time I came to Lewiston from Boston, it was very funny because you have a lot of trees – beautiful roads, but a lot of trees. But when you think of America you never think of the trees, you think of the cities. Everything is so flat, like my country is the middle of four mountains, and all the east of the city was a mountain, so when I left the city I was like “where is the north?” So, Maine is a little weird. Like this place is so big. But it is everything I ever thought about. Sometimes you think people don’t treat you differently because you are not local, but it never happened. I was expecting multi-faith, multi-ethnic group of people, and that is what I see.

WE: How did you become a TA at Bates?

NC: Well at the beginning of the year, well the thing is this, last year, I was at the third semester of my masters and my advisor was in Italy. So I had to talk a lot with the director of my masters, and she one day sent an email, like Bates is a college they are looking for a learning associate. And I looked at the time and I saw I needed to finish my thesis in six months, and so I talked to my girlfriend and she said, “Well, go. You need the experience.” So I prepared everything and sent my resume, and then my University selects three candidates, and then Bates selects one. And then like a few weeks later I got a letter from Bates saying that they wanted me to come to Bates. And then in August everything arrived, and in a matter of two weeks I had to get everything ready. Quitting my job, telling my boss like I’m leaving. But they were really great, they were like, “you’re living” and I was like, “Yeah I’m living. See ya!” I had to pack everything from my apartment.

WE: What are your plans for the future?

NC: Well right now, I want to have a PhD too. I know it would make my family proud. But also, the field of education is not easy. I want to get married to my girlfriend, and I don’t know about children. If I do have children, I want to be able to support them. When I was in Colombia I worked really hard so I made good money, but for the average teacher, it was 3 times the average teacher salary in Colombia. But still it isn’t even the salary. So I want to do something that gives me this income. But that is for the family. Definitely I want to do research, I like grammar period: grammar and culture, grammar, grammar, and grammar discourse, and grammar. I like teaching college students, and I would like to continue teaching college students or teaching other teachers. I like that appreciation of the academic life. I have seen it here that is very interesting. Like I work a lot, but from working 30 hours a week, plus thesis, it is great, like I can read what I want. I work and then I read. Being a college student can be a lot less enjoyable than a professor. But I have already been through that so that’s why I can laugh.

Please be sure to pick up a copy of The Student next week to read the next installment of a series that explores the backgrounds of on-campus TAs.