The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: webert Page 1 of 2

Left out on the ash tray

While it is perhaps not as prevalent as other recreational activities, the amount of students who do smoke cigarettes on campus is noticeable.  Yet, even with today’s smoking awareness campaign, the overall health consequences to many students are unknown or misconceived.

Currently Bates’s policy prohibits smoking in all building and vehicles owned, rented, or leased by the College. Additionally, smoking is prohibited within 50 feet, or about 20 paces, of all campus buildings. Although this policy is active on campus, for the most part, it is not strictly enforced, all the while many campuses have gone either smoking-free or tobacco-free. Bates Public Health Initiative (BPHI) has been spearheading this effort to update and change current policy at Bates. Current Co-President of BPHI Reed Mszar ‘18 was willing to offer his thoughts on the issue.

“Beginning last year during the first semester, BPHI took an interest in having Bates update its smoking policy on campus,” recounted Mszar. The reason for their new-founded campaign may be a surprising one to some students. Currently, Bates College and Bowdoin College are the only two colleges in Maine who have yet to update their smoking policy to a smoking-free campus, a policy which remains around 15 years old.

“We originally looked at Colby’s model for reference, but took a step back after seeing that it was not really student driven. However, we still looked to see what worked and what didn’t. During the second semester we sent out a survey and found that although a majority of students did support a smoking-free campus, there still were some student concerns that needed to be addressed going forward. Heading into second semester this year, we really tried to reinvigorate the conversation about smoking. We sent out another survey trying to gauge student opinion and see whether our efforts have made any significant change to student perspective.”

“Additionally we plan to have a tobacco awareness event during Short-Term that we hope will further educate students on campus about the impact of 2nd hand-smoking and to keep students cognizant of the current policy on campus.”

When asked about the group’s long-term goal, Mszar acknowledged that he understands this will be a “multiyear process.” “What we don’t want to do, is to pull a Colby; we want the change to be student driven. Our objective so far has been to raise awareness and work with other students and clubs to make sure that all voices are being heard and considered because what we don’t want to do is an exclude the concerns of any group on campus.”

“One of the concerns that we have heard against this policy is that we are infringing on students’ rights.” Unlike alcohol, tobacco can be purchased at 18 in the state of Maine, so for many the problem is not a legal one, but a public health one.

“Another concern we hear is that we don’t want to unknowing promote a disparity among a student group; in case smoking is more prevalent among a certain group on campus, we want to make sure we are aware of this so we aren’t actively disenfranchising students. Thankfully the administration is on board, so long as we make sure the change is student driven, they are willing to back us up.”

When asked how important having a smoking-free campus was to the group, Mszar remarked that “While we do hope have a smoke-free campus in the coming years, certainly more important to us is raising awareness among the student body about the health cost of smoking.”

Nationally in the US, around 27% of all college students smoke. Currently there are no plans to change the Bates Smoking Policy for next year; however, the school in partnership with the Bates Health Initiative is considering future changes, so long as the student body is willing to implement them. However, the Bates Student Health Initiative is planning on future events to help with smoking prevention and awareness so that students can be more cognizant of the resources that are available to them.


A perpetual teacher

Hello, I’m from China my name is Qi. My major is teaching Chinese as foreign languages, well, so then why did I come here? Well, what do I need to say again haha?

William Ebert: Tell me about yourself.

Qi Zhu: Um, so I was born in Jiangsu, China. it is really near Shanghai. Um, actually I’m not a very, I think that I’m not very good at um talking to people, but I think that I am a good teacher, because I been learning this major for about 6 year and am going to get my PhD. And after that I think I will be a Chinese teacher in China and I think that I coming to Bates, is another challenge for me, because I had been teaching Chinese in China for two years. That’s why I come to Bates, this is a good college, and I come here and want to see lots of American people and and foreign people studying, not in their mother language or area. It is also a challenge because, you know if you are teaching Chinese in China, students can always speak Chinese to another student or to the teacher, but here sometimes they don’t know how to say some words, and if you ask a question, in China, they always reply in Chinese to answer you, but here they always say English and that is why I need to fix my teaching skills and I need to change this way. I don’t think using their mother language is to teach their 2nd language is a bad way to teach so it’s really interesting, I can do lots of research here.

WE: What was your life like growing up in China?

QZ: When I was very young, I was not a very good student if you can imagine that. I don’t know how I can finish my master’s degree and continue my PhD, I don’t know how?! When I was very young, I really hated studying, but my parents were university teachers and they always encouraged me to study and happily they didn’t do lots….they didn’t do lots to punish me, so they just let me relax so I have other skills: I am an archery player in China. I was a professional and can play international games also, and was at the World Cup. So if I quit teaching job, I think I can be archery player mmmm. You know when I come into University, it is so hard, because I am not a good student, you know the university exam in China is very very hard, you need to focus and work 10 hrs every day, it is very hard, and then you can go to a good university. When I went into a university, I told myself: then you can do it, that is not very hard you can do it. So I tried to change my way. Be a good student. I choose this major because I think if you can be a good teacher, that would be awesome and then you can let lots of people and lots students know when you can teach things to them. For instance, for me my English is not very good, because it is a second language and I can them (my students) Chinese and then sometimes they can teach me some English words, or some other language. It makes me very happy. And after my university, I think I want to continue to do the same major, because I think teaching foreigners is very interesting, for example for American people, or Japanese people, or Korean people, Chinese is all a second language, but in each culture they have a different way of learning Chinese, um for example, Japanese and Korean, they all from Chinese characters in part, which means that they do many years of using Chinese characters but even though Japanese and Korean they have some characters like Chinese, they have different pronunciation. So maybe writing for them is very easy but pronunciation is very hard because in their minds, they always think about another pronunciation of the characters. But for American people, they never know Chinese characters. They always mix the left part and the right part and top part, so you need to tell them which part should be like this. I think doing this research is also interesting. I like to research. I have different student get different skills to help them learn Chinese very quickly, and also you know in China we can teach students Chinese in 3 months and then they can talk to Chinese people, I think it is very interesting and so quickly.

WE: Why did you decide to come to Bates?

QZ: In China and in my university, we have lots of chances to teach abroad, but I really like American, and I do research on American people and I have never seen such like a cold place like this! No, I like the snow. I was born in the winter on a really snowy day but in my hometown, it seldom snows and it is not having snow like this.

WE: What do you think of Maine?

QZ: I think Maine is so cool, there is not a lot of people so I can relax and um, I think Maine people always so kind. Really really kind they are so helpful and something. I also I think Bates college is so beautiful I really like the place, and I also talk to students and they are so happy.

WE: What do you think of America?

QZ: So this is my 3rd time in America, and um America is a freedom Country, I like the way to study and to living. They trust themselves and they didn’t lock their home and they trust everyone, and everyone always trusts everyone. In China everyone always we always catch ourselves in place of the us, you always need to prove yourself, but in America you always say not guilty when you need to fight something you don’t need to prove you are not guilty. I think that way is good.

WE: Something you miss something you like?

QZ: One thing I miss from home is food. Chinese food is so good. And on a cold day, you can’t go out for a walk. I miss my hometown and I miss Chinese food. But in the meantime I am ok, I have lots of students come to my office and talk to me and ask me question and be happy here.

WE: What is the most memorable experience you have had at Bates?

QZ: Um, I never had a bad experience, um something that made me very happy, is during the christmas holiday, I flied to Portland, and I um I didn’t find any taxi that come back to Bates and I saw a guy with a uniform with Bates College and um it’s a old lady, and then the old lady come and talk to me and see ask “O are you from Bates? I graduated from Bates so many years ago.” And she said “Do you need to come back to Bates?” And I said yes!, o she said ‘O I can drive you back to Bates, and I said “O my god you are so kind!”, this things can’t happen in China, even if we come from the same school. Amazing you don’t even know me, you don’t know if I am a good person or a bad person and I think it is very good. And I think the funny thing is even in my university we have a uniform, but we never wear that, and I don’t know why in Bates we like to wear that. I think think, lots of students like to use Bates thing, it is like a family.

The push for Illiberalism

This past November, the Bates student body mobilized in a way that it had not for many years. The school achieved a record turnout for the 2016 election, and had a huge upsurge in student voter registration. Yet now all of that progress is under the threat of delegitimization from the Maine state government, all because students took the dangerous action of exercising their civil duty.

Voter suppression is not new in Maine. Prior to the 2016 election, a misleading pamphlet was being circulated around Bates college stating that students would have to pay to register their vehicle in Lewiston if they were to register to vote, which they did in fact not have to do. This is an example of a poll tax, when the act of voting itself requires some form of payment, and it was a tactic used in the Jim Crow South during the post-civil war period to restrict minority and immigrant voting, specifically African American voting. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, poll taxes became illegal, and for the most part this remained true, right up until the last decade.

Voter IDs, which many claim would reduce the amount of illegal voting that occurs and ensure voter security, are in many forms a poll tax, since IDs cost money. The movement for ‘voter security’ has grown, and restrictive voter laws have been implemented across the United States, all in the name of so called ‘security’. Yet perhaps it would be wiser to remember the words of Benjamin Franklin who said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Nonetheless, currently in the Maine state house, the Committee on Veteran and Legal Affairs is considering a bill that would not only require an ID to vote, but also change the legal definition of residency to restrict students from voting. The bill, LD 155, is “an Act to Protect Voting Integrity by Establishing a Residency Verification Requirement for Purposes of Voting.” Proposed by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, the bill slyly masks itself within the terms of ‘protection’ and ‘integrity’, but whether it actually provides these thing is disputable.

Not willing to let their rights be taken from them, the Bates Democrats in collaboration with Bates Student Action have been coordinating with willing students to testify on Wednesday, February 15th during a statehouse public hearing to present their objection to the passage of this bill. Many of the Bates Democrats clearly are outraged at the ramification of the bill.

“Bates has had a record number of voter registration this year. We want to increase that number, not suppress it!” says Maitri Chittidi ‘17, Co-President of Bates Democrats.

Another Bates Democrat, Daniel Fichmann ‘19, commented that “with less than 60% of eligible voters making their voices heard, the government should spending its time figuring out ways to make voting more accessible to everyone and encourage civic engagement especially from young adults.”

The push for voter delegitimization seemingly appears to be only a greater trend in the process of growing American illiberalism. “We are supposed to be the country of the ‘free’, yet more and more it appears that the word ‘free’ applies only to a selective group of people. The greatest stain on America’s history was when the phrase “All men are created equal” permitted the existence of slavery. As we have learned over the last 240 years, ‘all men’ should not only be attributed to a particular group of Americans. It should be all, without exception”, remarked one student who asked to remain anonymous.

Whether or not the bill will reach the house floor has yet to be determined. Bates students should continue to be mindful and cautious of state efforts to limit voting rights.


Bates Democrats practice civic engagement

The last few weeks have been the most interesting in a long time for politics in the United States; yet, as the fabric of the world order begins to change, traditional partisan opposition has remained the same. Throughout the week, the Bates Democrats have made it known through their actions that they do not support many of President Trump’s cabinet picks and they have done well to make sure that both Susan Collins and Angus King know as well.

Every day for the past week the Democrats have been hosting phone banks, calling on fellow Democrats and Bates students alike to call Maine senators Angus King and Susan Collins to state their opposition to some of President Trump’s cabinet picks, such as Scott Pruitt, and various bills that Congress is attempting to pass that could be destructive to the environment, such as the repeal of the Methane Waste Rule. These passionate students have tirelessly been attempting to persuade their representative and some of their efforts seem to have come to fruition, while others have not.

The devout Vice-President of the Bates Democrats, Elise Emil ‘17, stated that her work is not only important, but imperative: “starting this week the club has organized a weekly phone bank to oppose Trump’s cabinet picks many of whom are unqualified and even dangerous to the very agencies they are supposed to lead. Essentially we envisioned having a few students getting together in a room for less than an hour to make calls to Senator Angus King and Senator Scott Pruitt”.

Additionally, Emil went on to talk about how the call slots would help to incentivize students: “often, when a student wants to call a senator or one of their representatives, they’ll be focused on homework or a club, and then they will end up not having enough time to even talk with their representative. But by having them have a specific time slot, they are more likely to actually call their representative and the atmosphere of the room makes it less stressful for students as well”.

“In particular, we as a group want to come together to represent the vision of our group as a whole”, Emil added. “For many Democrats, President Trump’s choices for his cabinet are not just unreasonable, but completely unqualified. “Scott Pruitt is a horrible decision for head of EPA particularly because he denies climate change and has sued the EPA multiple times. By calling Senator Collins and Senator King, we hope to demonstrate to them how Trump’s cabinet pick does not represent the majority of Americans and their views on climate change. More so by scheduling events like this, we hope to promote and encourage student activism on campus and by engaging in this routine we hope to change Susan Collins’ mind”.

Determined and unwavering, Emil and the rest of the Bates Democrats will continue to host calls and oppose President Trump’s picks for the next few week.


Bates College shutdown

On Tuesday, January 24, Bates College administrative offices were delayed from opening until noon. All employees who were not designated as “essential” were asked to remain at home. Nonetheless, Commons and the Library were still open throughout the day. Classes were left to the discretion of the professor. But campus in many ways did come to a standstill.

This logistical nightmare was a result of the sleet and icy conditions that, although always a reality of Maine winters, were more intolerable than usual. Yet this was also the first time that the college has had a delayed opening in the college’s recent history. For many excited students this meant liberation from their morning classes but for others it led to false excitement as many devoted professors affirmed that class was scheduled as usual.

The day itself was filled with bizarre weather, as a mesh of water, ice, and snow merged with one another to combine into an unholy mix of tumultuous precipitation. Students who still had classes were forced to bear the inclimate weather along with snow filled pathways. At the same time, campus workers had to begin the monotonous task of cleaning up the mess.

The delay was called by the Senior Emergency Response Group which is made up of representatives from the offices of the dean of the faculty, dean of students, vice president of finance and administration, security, communications, facility services and dining services, and whose job it is deliberate with one another on how to “develop and coordinate the College’s response to emergencies.” After proper assessment of the weather conditions on Tuesday, the Senior Emergency Response Group opted to enact a delayed start.

Student reactions were varied. For many students the most surprising aspect was not the delay, but that the school called their phones.

“My dad got a call at 4 am and was confused and worried something happened”, said Mary Buford Turnage ‘19. “When I went outside, the pathway was inches deep in water,” Turnage remarked regarding the weather.

Additionally another student, Natalie Givens ‘20 said, “nothing was better than to wake up and hear that I didn’t have to go to my 8 am.” However, one reaction mutually expressed by the entire Bates community was gratitude for the campus workers who had to shovel and clear the numerous pathways that had been blocked. Regardless, by noon, most of the snow had been cleared sufficiently enough to reopen administrative building and all Bates academic and administrative services continued to operate smoothly.


A walk with a Russian

Roger Williams at sunset as William interviews Lera Fedorova. MAX HUANG/THE BATES STUDENT

Roger Williams at sunset as William interviews Lera Fedorova.

Lera Fedorova is the devoted and deliberate Russian TA who graciously sat down with The Bates Student to give us her story.

Lera Fedorova:  I’m from Russia, I live in a city called Orel, ah yes it is not far from Moscow. So I studied at the university and I got a bachelor’s degree there, and now I am getting my master’s.

William Ebert: What did you do for fun as a kid?

LF: First I went to puppet theater, I was participating there with all the puppets and all these things. And then I decided to go to art school and I studied there for 6 years and I finished it quite early since most people there were 2 or 3 years older than me, than I was. Me and my friends usually, we just, we just went out for walk. I noticed here, that people don’t really walk, just to walk. So people usually go to some places to cinemas, to theaters, to park. But in Russia, it is a general thing, you always see kids outside, they are just walking, just in the streets. Once when I just arrived here in Lewiston, I decided to walk a little bit and I needed some stuff so I decided to go to Walmart, and I walked to Walmart. And I think 3 cars stopped and asked if everything is ok with me, do I need a ride or something? I was just walking! Yeah, so it was crazy a little bit for me.

WE: What was it like living in Russia? What was different than living here?

LF: I can’t say that I feel much difference, because I am here as adult, I am an adult here. But I can say that we had lots of freedom from our parents. I think, well as far as I can judge, here it is not that freedom. If I may say so again, because they let me go to the city center to meet my friends especially in the summer; I just had to be home at certain time, but everything was fine. Yeah, I think these moments that they give you freedom to grow up or to be with your friends or to somehow understanding to behave yourself and yeah.

WE: What is one defining moment in your life?

LF: I think this was the moment when I, um, moved out from my parents flat, because before that, the period before that was somehow defining and when I started living on my own was also one of those moments. So before that for five or six months, I was working hard, I was studying all the time, I almost didn’t show up at my parents place just to sleep, and not even every night, so I was real busy. I almost didn’t talk to my parents, they of course didn’t like they, they didn’t see their daughter in a while, she was supposed to be with them all the time. And there was one moment when I, some evening, I decided to talk to my father and he told me about his hunt, he’s a hunter, yes and I asked about his friend, something like ‘How is he?’ And he looked at me strangely and said that he died two months before. And this was horrible for me because he was one of my parents, my father’s best friends, and I didn’t know about it. Yes, at this moment, I realized I needed to change everything somehow, and my parents probably realized that we need to do something. And I think a month after it, I moved out to my apartment and I don’t know why, I separated from my parents and it was hard for all of us, but we became closer and uh, I realized the importance of talking to your close people to spending time with your close people, and finding this time. Because before I thought, come on I live with them, they see me; isn’t that enough? Haha, they sometimes see me. Yes, but after that, all this period, I realized this importance. I always talk with my mother, I call my father maybe once a week probably and we talk a few hours, so yes. This is very important thing.

WE: What do you think of the States?

LF: I like it a lot. I didn’t think that, States um, were going to be much different from Russia. Of course they are different, but I mean the mentality and all the things. But it is. It is very different, it very interesting to see how people here behave how people here communicate. And I really enjoyed being here while the elections. Yes, I realize that for you guys it is not that fun, but for me it was just interesting to see how everyone reacted to everything because in Russia for the last few years people don’t really care about the elections and just political things they don’t care. They like to discuss something, but they never understand anything and it can only be a couple of words. But here people are really into politics and people understand what it is, I don’t understand what politics at all or anything, it is just impossible for me to talk about it, so I was quite fascinated by this moment and I don’t know, just general mentalities of things.

WE: What is the best thing and the worst thing about America?

LE: I really like that it is possible to bring your dog to every place. It is so amazing! And seeing dogs everywhere and even in planes, and during studies, some teachers bring their dogs, Roger Williams where I work, there is one teacher who bring her dog all the time. And this is amazing. It could never happen in Russia, I don’t think. I never saw this, and it is really hard to bring your dog to a restaurant or some place. Um to shop no, everywhere is no dogs, no dogs. And the worst thing…um…I had some moments, I dislike this American smile. Yeah, not the smile, the smile itself. It is very curious how people, when you’re just some person walking and the person smiles. But this is not the thing. The smile is in their face but then you never know what they really mean, what they really say, what is really on their mind. Yeah, we are cool, and you are cool, and everything is cool, but in reality they have something in their mind, something different.

WE: How did you end up at Bates?

LF: My university has some kind of collaboration with Bates. So every year or two uh teacher assistants from my university come to Bates, and students from Bates, sometimes, once in a few years, come to my city to study Russian studies, Russian culture and Ecology a little bit also so, yes two years ago was the last time they came, and I helped with the organization of everything with their coming and after that yes, the previous spring, my professor asked me if I want to go here. And I agree. Yes, I really like being here. Just the organization, and the students, I really love my students you know, choosing to study Russian. Is a very difficult decision to make since it is difficult, but I really enjoy it a lot.

The ‘typical’ girl next door

Verena Wappel: Ok, so my name is Verena. What can I say, I don’t know. I’m from Austria, I grew up in a landscape very east of Austria, so on the Hungarian border, but I’ve lived in Vienna for the last 5 years, so yeah that’s where I’m from. I’m from the countryside, but also a little bit of a city girl, I guess.

William Ebert: What was your childhood like growing up?

VW: My childhood? Good, I liked it. It was very effective very safe, I was very grateful that my parents always took care of me and, I don’t know, being healthy, and dedication was always very important to them, so that was fine. Wasn’t that exciting though, I guess. I grew up in a village with 300 hundred inhabitants. We are not an independent community, we are with another town, and then we are 2 thousand people. The capital from our district was about 10 kilometers away and of course you go there for shopping or school or other things, but that’s not a city, that’s 8 thousand people. We travelled a lot though. My father likes to go by car to places, so we drove all the way to Denmark or Finland, Sweden, 5 people in the car, so much fun. We drove to England when I was 11 and it took us 25 hours. 5 people in a car. I was eleven so my sisters were 9 and 13, especially my 13-year-old sister was not interested in it. And when I became older, I decided to travel by myself.

WE: What was one of your most memorable experience growing up as an adolescent in Austria?

VW: A day I remember very well was my 17th birthday, so Easter depends on the moon and sometimes my birthday is at Easter. And I loved it, and so the Saturday of Easter, the day before Easter Sunday, we have a tradition. We have a huge bonfire and the tradition also says that on the Friday before Easter Sunday we go from house to house and we steal the wood. It is actually kind of allowed. We are allowed to take a certain amount per house, our mayor allowed us to, but still it is a little exciting. And we start when it is dark and we have a good time and it is really fun to steal the wood, and then the next day we prepare the bonfire, we prepare, um the bar and the music and everything, and then in the evening we have our event. The whole town comes to party, drink and whatever and with that money we go to Croatia. So I really liked that celebration, it is a lot of fun, and on my 17th, it was that Saturday and it was really nice, and I worked in a bar, I had my shift but then I was done so also the day after my birthday, it is my sister’s birthday, and the day after her, it is my best friend’s birthday, so we all celebrated together. And my boyfriends these days, told me that he loved me on that day. We broke up two weeks afterwards, but I really enjoyed that day. I really enjoyed the party and the tradition and yeah. I got nice presents.

WE: What made you go into teaching?

VW: So my house school was focused on business because when I was younger I thought, I don’t want to study, I want to work directly after high school. My parents somehow almost forced me to finish high school. I really didn’t want to. And um, at the time I finished I was old enough to realize that I want to study. I was 19 when I went to the school of teacher’s education in Vienna and at first I studied for elementary school teaching and there was also in the 5th term of study, I went to the Netherlands and so I came back and I had my 6th term and then I didn’t get a job right away; they did not need teachers for an elementary school and in the Netherlands I taught in an elementary school so in the Netherlands the elementary school is from 4 to 12 years old so the students are that age and I taught English and some German and it was just awesome to teach English and German to 11 and 12 year old ones but in Austria, elementary school is from 6 to 10 so when I came back, I decide to go for secondary school and with that qualification as well now I can teach in elementary school from 6-10 or in secondary school from 10-14. And um yeah and so last year I taught in a secondary school from 10-14 and I taught English and arts and I loved it and um, yeah my students in Ireland were the same age and that’s really fun with the 13 14 year old ones . And now I am here at Bates and I teach German to much older students, but sometimes they are just as childish. Sometimes they are.

WE: How did you end up at Bates?

VW: So I was actually placed here. I wanted to go abroad and I wanted to go to an English speaking country so my options were applying for Fulbright in the states or World-Wide Teaching and I could have gone to either England or Scotland, but at that point I thought, I’ve been to England, Ireland, and Scotland so why not go to the States? So um yeah, I applied for Fulbright and then I got the offer at Bates and it was either, take it or deny it but um you won’t get another offer and that was actually the first time I had heard about Maine, so I started watching documentaries and I loved it and I watch many videos on YouTube, like one girl explaining 280 and the basement and whatever and I just watch whatever videos on YouTube I could find and of the snowstorm and um, I think it was the basketball team celebrating after they won and I took the offer and now I’m here.

WE: What do you think of the states?

VW: That’s um, a very broad question, um what do I think? So in general, I like it. I think every experience is a good experience. And I really have good experiences here. I can’t say that I love it. I really love Austria though. I know it is not perfect but it is really awesome. Also seeing California, Nevada, Arizona, then coming to Maine and New England is very different. I prefer New England, it is very familiar to Austria, so the landscape, the weather, and it could be just the same. There are fewer mountains, but where I grew up there were only a few hills so it could be just the same. That could be here as well. We have better water quality though. I hate your tap water. In Vienna it is delicious, it is freshly out of the source in the mountains and it’s 40 thousand years old and with all these minerals and so on, it is delicious, you don’t have to change it. And we can be very lucky about that, most Austrians don’t appreciate it enough. They don’t appreciate many things enough.

WE: What are your plans after Bates?

VW: I will continue travelling until my visa tells me to leave and then I will have free for a few months so I will continue working in Vienna and I will start with the next school year in Vienna. But I want to see all of the world. As much as possible at least.

WE: Any final thoughts?

VW: No I don’t know what I said there is nothing you have to know about me, I am more the typical girl from next door, nothing interesting.


From the same place as us

Farah Ben Jemaa is the quiet, but always present French TA from Tunisia. Insightful, but cautious and alway curious, she tells her story about her life now and in Tunisia:

Farah Ben Jemaa: “I was born in Tunisia; I lived my whole life there. I was a very introvert kid, so it didn’t go well in school; it was a little bit better in high school, you grow up so you get more comfortable with yourself. Uh, so the defining thing; there are two defining things in my childhood. I wasn’t very out there so I spent my childhood reading books and not knowing people, and the other thing is that I went to a private school, so when I moved from mmm Junior high to High school, I had to go to a public school and it was like two completely different worlds and I had to and that was my first contact with reality and how my country is. I am so happy it happened that way. Basically, that is it. I don’t have a lot of memories of my childhood.”

William Ebert: How was high school a transformative experience?

FBJ: “Um, it is the difference between what I was used to my whole life and what I discovered, what I did not know existed and I discovered it in high school. When I moved to the high school, you had people coming from everywhere because it was downtown, and uh a very old high school, so very different people, and I started learning that you can have terrible grades in school and not be succeeding and be a good person, that was, oddly enough, a discovery for me! I had been brought up to believe that good people have good grades, nice people succeed in school and then I met really nice people who were repeating a year, most of my friends were repeating the year so they were older.

WE: What was it like growing up in Tunisia?

FBJ: Um so one problem in Tunisia is that there isn’t enough public spaces I mean the public space is not really friendly or kid friendly or teenager friendly, so we used to go to each others’ houses more, so we’d go to friends or family. It was very indoors, most of our activities were at each others’ houses, um, what else do we do in Tunisia when we are growing up? It is really family center education, your cousin are really, you share your daily life with your cousin, you share your daily life with your family, so when go to the beach, you go to an aunt’s house, so everything is, maybe it is my experience, everything is centered around the family. We used to go out to suburbs because the suburbs are by the sea, and just um I guess this is really boring hmm. I mean it is just a normal childhood, you hang out with people and you know. Our lives are really not so different.

WE: What did you do after high school?

FBJ: I went to college, I went to a college where, it is something that we inherited from the French, called prepa, basically a school where you go for two year, very selective, very intensive, very hard, and after that you sit for an exam, for many exams, to go to other schools, ok? So the point is that, after 5 years, between that school and the other ones, you are supposed to be able to sit for another exam to get into college. You’re faced with failure all the time because it is so hard, and professors are amazing so you, can’t help, I mean you can’t prevent yourself from comparing yourself to the professors and thinking you’ll never be worth anything and you work hard nonetheless. I also began to travel abroad and that’s something we really need. Not even the greater world, I think that if um, we would have a very different Middle East if the young people from the Middle East could go see each other, could just travel to other Middle Eastern countries. It’s, travel is one of the most difficult things to do for people of my region. Because it is very expensive and because of usually visas. So if we could if we had more travel opportunities, I think, I’m confident that the region would look much different if we could travel.

WE: What was your life like after college?

FBJ: It was really funny. So I told you after college you take 5 years and then an exam. Well in the 5th year I was at a different school and it just happened that, that was where I was recruited the following year, I mean in a two month period, I had a degree and started teaching at the same school I had just graduated from. It was so weird, I couldn’t, I didn’t even know how to address them because two months ago, I would call them Monsieur and Madame and now we’re colleagues so it made for really awkward situations. I also was really very young. I was 23 and it wasn’t a very large college, so lots of people were older than me, many of my students were older than me. There was this one time where this woman came up to me after there was an exam, and there is this expression in Tunisia ‘my dear daughter’ or ‘son’, that you use with someone that could be your daughter or you son. But this woman came up to me and she gave me back her paper and said ‘Madame, my dear daughter, don’t grade us too harshly’, but it was so funny the juxtaposition of Madame which is how you address your professors and my dear daughter. I couldn’t step into the teachers lounge for the first semester, it felt like I was being somewhere I shouldn’t be. And that was the first year I taught.

WE: How has been your experience in America?

FBJ: So something are exactly how I thought they would be, New York for example. When you live outside of America, you are so exposed to that imagery that when you get there, you feel like you’re inside, you feel like you’re still watching. I feel like I was still watching something and not there, but sometime I realized that I actually was there. And it feels very funny to feel like you’re inside a world of fiction. Um so yea, New York, really gave me that impression. But there is a crazy part to America, everything is so huge! And not just, I don’t mean in a bad way, but everything is oversized, enormous; everything, everything.  There were a few things that struck me as strange like the fact that there were so many old people still working and that’s really not something you see in Europe or Tunisia. And here that really broke my heart when I arrived, to see very, very old people working jobs they had to take because they needed to.

WE: Do you think Tunisia is the same in some way to America?

FBJ: Tunisia has been through so much change in the past 5 years, it is progressing, but it’ll take some time. Tunisia is a very interesting country right now, it is ah, it shouldn’t be working, but it is, and I don’t know how! I think, lots of people feel the same about their country, how is it working? What I also like about Tunisia in the current context, so there was a revolution 5 years ago uh that’s what sprung the whole Arab Spring thing, and messed up the region and we are the only country that manage to not have a civil war and go back to a dictator, we got through it. So I like that Tunisia complicates that narrative. European media usually says ‘O so democracy cannot work with an Islamic country, well it does in Tunisia. So far we have been having democratic elections. They usually say that it is difficult to fight ISIS, because ISIS has the support of the population, it doesn’t in Tunisia, they tried to invade  us and the army but mostly the population kick them out to Libya. Maybe I’m being chauvinistic and having misplaced pride, but I like that Tunisia doesn’t fit into the usual narrative about Arab countries. I like that.

Who are the Language TAs?

The language classes at Bates often have a Teacher’s Assistant who tend to be upperclassmen willing to help their classmates if they have any questions or problems regarding the various topics they are learning. Additionally, TAs sometime function as teachers by supervising a lesson or preparing agenda for a class.

The language TAs are not your typical Bates students: they have already graduated from an institution of higher education, and most reside outside of the United States. The language TAs make up an interesting group of individuals: recently graduated, but beginning to ferment a career in academia graduates and on the cusp of the stereotypical monotony of adulthood.

But the past experiences of TAs on campus are often un-probed by students on campus. Who are these individuals? What were their lives like? And how did they come to Bates? What we intend to do is answer these questions, and, through each interview, we will attempt to convey who these people are. Sometimes readers will get a good sense of a TA, while other times readers will be left as they were before. While we cannot say that we will do their stories justice, we hope to share some of the rich and interesting past experiences of the TAs on campus with our readers. Through these interviews we hope to not only inform you about who they are, but also give you a better picture of the world as a whole.

The interviews will be of a different format; they will not be edited for grammar or content. Their answers and narrative will be given verbatim, with all the grammatical errors and disorganized thoughts in plain view. Through this, we hope to convey to you a better sense of who they are through their own voices.

Unfortunately, due to limiting constraints, the interviews will be shortened from their actual length.


Meeting Spanish TA Nicolas Correa

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.


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