The Au Pair

So I guess I’ll just start by asking – what’s your major? Or if you’re still undecided, do you have any thoughts?

I’m very undecided. I came in thinking that I was going to do English because I was pretty sure I wanted to do Education, be an English teacher. Once I got here, I started taking an anthropology class, and I’m also taking an English class that I really like. The anthro class actually got me really interested in anthropology, so now I’m considering that as a major. I’m taking sociology and environmental science next semester because those are also things I’m considering. I’m just really interested in justice, in general—like the ways I’m able to improve upon institutions and social problems. I care a lot about environmental justice. It’s really important to me as someone who has a lot of access to higher education and who has grown up with a lot of privilege to use that privilege to help others.

Is that why you applied to be a Sharpe Scholar?

Exactly. I joined because I wanted to be more of an active participant in improving lives. At first, I thought that the program was just us getting involved in the community and doing community service through our classes, but it actually ended up more as community research. That’s been interesting. My research proposal is about Farm to School projects – bringing local farms and schools together. Through that, I am not only trying to work on obesity and nutritional issues through education, but also on increasing the success of local farms, thus also helping the environment. It made me think more about being involved in the community in a different way, as a researcher. It’s been really helpful in getting me back into academia, because I wasn’t in school last year.

Oh, you weren’t in school? How did you spend your time, then?

I took a gap year last year and did a lot of soul-searching. I read a lot of religious books and books about spirituality and did a lot of thinking. I had a lot of time to do it. But I was also working. I was an au pair in Spain for seven months. It was amazing – one of the best experiences ever. And I got certified to be an English teacher while I was there. It was really cool to be just nineteen and an after-school tutor for a lot of kids throughout the city. I would go on the Metro and show up at people’s houses and work on English with those Spanish kids. Then, since I was an au pair, it basically gave me the whole day to myself while the little girl I took care of was at school. So I had time to read and exercise a lot and take classes – I took a guitar class and salsa lessons. I also had a lot of time to travel so on weekends I would go to different places and go out at night to cultural activities. It was an amazing experience for me.

That’s so awesome! So, you kind of started on this track, so I’m just going to go with it – you said you took guitar lessons, and I know you’re in the Accidentals, so what role does music play in your life? How do you experience and appreciate it?

Music has always been a part of my life. It’s probably the most stable thing in my life, ever. My mom put me in choir when I was four years old and I started taking voice lessons when I was six. So I’ve grown up with a classical music background. I continued singing in a choir in high school. I went to boarding school in Massachusetts for high school, so I sung in a choir there, an acapella group, and a chamber classical group. Singing is my downtime, in a way – I don’t have to think about it, it’s really my version of relaxation. Which is really funny, because it also causes a lot of stress. I have to run around to practice and rehearsal and get all these pieces memorized. But it’s my familiar thing – almost like going home, for me. I moved a lot when I was a kid, so if I could think of just one thing that’s been a stable, happy presence in my life, it has always been singing and music.

So you said you were interested in education – what level would you want to teach?

As of now, I want to teach elementary school. I can’t imagine teaching teenagers, who are so close to me in age. But I would also love to teach high school English. So more duality there, I guess. But I’ve always loved little kids. Actually, last year during my gap year, before I went to Spain, I was working and living in Northern Virginia with my mom. I went in to DC and was working with Jump Start, a preschool literacy program. Through that program I learned a lot about how important early education is and child development. That really interested me and I just really love little kids, I can’t be unhappy around them. They’re just so cute! So I’m thinking about maybe being a preschool teacher, too. Because I got a lot of experience teaching while I was in Spain and also through Jump Start before I went, I really feel like education is a good option for me.

Yeah, kids are amazing.

They really are! It’s amazing how creative they are. I think it’s so important to foster creativity and let them grow. Growth in general is really important from an early age and I’m learning a lot about that. In my psych class, we spend a lot of time talking about how much is learned between ages three to seven and the difference is huge.

I agree, sometimes I just stop and think about how mind-blowing a child’s brain is and how much it takes in.

Exactly, and how much they are picking up – it was cool because the preschool I was working at in DC was bilingual, so I got to speak with the kids both in Spanish and English. I just learned in psychology about how being bilingual contributes to flexibility in problem-solving. It was cool to connect that back to my experience last year. It’s nice when those things connect.

I agree, connections are wonderful in all senses. I guess my last question is – what made you want to come to William and Mary, of all places? This diamond in the rough – or diamond in the muddy swamp, rather.

Actually, both my parents came here for school, so I was already familiar with it. In the beginning, it wasn’t at the top of my list at all but what I liked about William and Mary was that there was quite a diversity of opinion and people. I didn’t feel like everyone thought the same way here. I ended up at William and Mary which was so annoying because I hate doing the exact same things that my mom does.  

Oh, why is that?

Okay, so I’m the oldest and I have somehow ended up doing so many things that my mom does. First of all, I’m just really like her in personality. I get along with her really well. She went to my boarding school and now I’ve gone to the same college as her. I’m also in the same sorority as her. It’s ridiculous! But I do love her so it makes sense. I really admire my mother so it makes sense that I like to do things similar to her. What is weird is that I went to elementary and middle school in Northern Virginia and went to boarding school for high school so coming here, I’ve been running into so many people I knew from middle school who are all a grade above me since I took a gap year. But so far, I’ve liked it here. I had a rough transition in the beginning of the semester. I didn’t come back from Spain until two weeks before Orientation. I hadn’t thought about it before but I was going through reverse culture shock. Leaving America and living abroad for half a year was a transition in itself, but then I came back and went directly into college life. Also, all my friends were already sophomores so they had already gone through the transition—and on one hand, it was nice to talk to them because they had advice for me, but on the other, my closest friends weren’t with me. It was hard not to have them with me. I continuously got this feeling that I didn’t fit in, or didn’t belong here. But now that I’ve been here for a while and found a home in the singing community, which I love, and other people around campus, and especially Samir—I love Samir—I’m definitely starting to like it more. I like William and Mary now.

I’m sure William and Mary likes you too!

That’s good. I’m glad to hear it. Didn’t know the College itself had an opinion about me though, but that is good to know!

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