Last year, The Student ran a column highlighting the invaluable work done by foreign language teaching assistants. This week I spoke to Alina Popova, the new teaching assistant for the Russian department.
When learning a difficult language like Russian, students stress the importance of a teaching assistant in the foreign language learning experience. According to Russian student Gabe Nelson ‘20, “It’s useful to have someone who’s actually from the country you’re learning about so you can learn about their country from their perspective.”
For Andrea Glenn ’19, learning with a foreign language TA “[A]dds diversity in what you hear, because Dennis [Browne, Associate Professor of Russian] and Alina sound very different, which strengthens our knowledge of the language.”
The Bates Student (TBS): Hi Alina! Where are you from?
Alina Popova: I am from Orel. It’s a small provincial town in Russia about 500 kilometers from Moscow, our capital in the central part of Russia.
TBS: What is your hometown like?
AP: My hometown is small. It used to be an industrial town, but nowadays there aren’t many factories there. It has become more urbanized I think, and reminds [us] of big cities like Moscow. We have no metro, but still at least there have appeared some things you can do on the weekend, some places where you could go out. My town is changing.
TBS: Why did you decide to teach Russian?
AP: I was mainly interested to teach Russian because I love international communication and I love different cultures, getting to know new people. I take it as my own education because you’re always going to find something that you can learn from other people. I’m glad to represent Russia.
TBS: How have you liked Bates?
AP: Oh, it’s a super, super social college! There’s
always lots of activities to do. Everyone’s so helpful and
gregarious… I love it. One more thing I especially love about Bates is that all the
activities are super organized, there are lots of people who are in charge of particular things, particular jobs. It’s very organized and well structured.
TBS: How have you adjusted to living in America?
AP: I have a cousin living in New York and I spent about a week there before going to Bates. He gave me some advice. He told me what American people are like so I was ready to face a new culture at Bates College. But still, it took me about five days to get adjusted because it’s another pace of life I’m not used to. So hectic, but in a pleasant way.
TBS: Do you ever get homesick for Russia?
Frankly speaking, I can’t say that I’m homesick. I’m missing my parents, missing my friends. But most of my friends live not in Russia. They have already moved to Italy or Israel. I miss my people.
TBS: When did you learn English?
AP: I learned English since my early childhood, when I was in the second form at school. So practically all my life I have been learning English and English speaking cultures.
TBS: Are you taking any other classes at Bates?
AP: Yes, I am taking French. I started learning it in Russia at my university. I feel that I lag behind other teacher’s assistants because they have more experience with living in an English-speaking country… that’s why I’ve also decided to take an American literature class, to pick up some vocabulary and listen to other people express their points of view and attitudes.
TBS: How long will you be teaching at Bates?
AP: For eight months, so I will be leaving at the end of April.
TBS: Do you have any future plans after Bates?
AP: I hope I will be invited back [to Bates] one more time. I love this culture very much and I love the surroundings. There are lots of trees and greenery. Teaching at Bates College is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a life-changing experience, and it’s sure to change me as a person and as a specialist. I’m also going to take a master’s degree because I have only finished my bachelor’s degree. Frankly speaking, I’m not sure which direction I’m choosing yet because there are so many interesting things and I need to be sure on what exactly I want to be focusing my attention on for the nearest 10 years.