Spanish graduate Nicole Newman aspires to become a bilingual therapist

Nicole Newman graduated with a BA in Spanish and will enter the UMSL Graduate Counseling Program this fall with the intention of becoming a bilingual therapist. During her undergraduate studies, Newman served as a Spanish tutor and additional instructor, as well as a representative of the Lingua Government Student Association, a campus language and culture club. (Photo by August Jennewein)

As far back as Nicole Newman can remember, she’s been the person her friends and family turn to for advice. His passion for the Spanish language also persisted most of his life.

But Newman never thought of combining the two until she arrived at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. After graduating last weekend with a BA in Spanish, she is one step closer to that goal. She will continue to work there next fall as part of the UMSL Graduate Counseling Program with the intention of becoming a bilingual therapist in the future.

It’s a quest that naturally combines Newman’s skills, but it took a lot of thought, a few setbacks, and a bit of uncertainty to realize his calling.

Throughout her childhood, Newman regularly visited her great-grandparents in San Diego, and she became fascinated by the Spanish she heard spoken in the border town.

“I was always kinda around it, and I knew it was something I wanted to talk about someday,” she said. “Almost as soon as they started offering classes in college, I started taking it. I’ve been taking classes for 10 years now, which is crazy to think of the time that has passed since those first classes when the aspiration to be bilingual seemed so far away.

She enthusiastically enrolled in her high school Spanish exchange program in second year, although she wouldn’t be able to participate until she graduated. Despite the wait, a trip to Spain was a dream come true.

However, the start of Newman’s journey was not very auspicious.

The group of exchange students arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to miss their connecting flight to Spain due to a storm. It was the first in a series of setbacks that left Newman wondering if she would actually make it to her destination.

Her luggage had already been loaded and sent overseas, leaving her without a change of clothes. If that wasn’t enough, she didn’t have a debit or credit card at the time, and she had already converted most of the money she carried into euros.

In the end, she and her fellow travelers lived at the airport for three days before taking another flight.

At first, arriving in southern Spain was somewhat overwhelming – the local accent was different from what Newman had been exposed to in his classes, and it was his first time outside the United States.

But it didn’t take long for the Spaniards to conquer it.

“It hit me like, ‘Oh my God, I did it after that huge setback that almost completely canceled the trip, which made it even more special,’ ‘Newman said. “What struck me from the start was the difference in culture, the difference in greetings. Americans can be very shy and not very open to engaging with strangers, and I was already so nervous about my Spanish skills that talking to people doubly terrified me. But the willingness of strangers out there to help me, engage with me and be super nice, that was the biggest shock to me and something that made me feel immediately welcome.

Newman spent the next two weeks with a host family in Cadiz, soaking up the sights and sounds of the ancient coastal town.

“I fell in love with the culture there, and I still talk to my host family, especially my host sister every day on WhatsApp,” she said. “I loved the country, I loved the culture and I knew I wanted to go back one day.”

The experience had been transformative, but after returning home and setting her sights on college, Newman wasn’t sure she wanted to major in Spanish. It was the only subject in school that had always caught her interest, but she didn’t want to teach. She was also on the verge of pursuing a career in international trade.

For these reasons, Newman decided to enroll first at St. Louis Community College – Meramec and obtain an associate degree. Still, she couldn’t shake the idea that Spanish was the right way for her. She chose to attend UMSL thanks to its linguistic and cultural studies department.

“After I got my transfer degree, I was like, ‘I have to choose something, and that’s the only thing I’m interested in,’” Newman said. “I couldn’t have been happier that this is what I chose.”

UMSL’s Spanish program provided an engaging environment and Newman quickly made friends. Her language skills also caught the attention of teachers and staff, who asked her if she would be interested in becoming a Spanish tutor and additional instructor. Newman gladly accepted the invitation.

As a tutor, she worked one-on-one with lower-level Spanish students and, as an additional instructor, she conducted group assessments for the Spanish II courses. In both roles, she enjoyed helping people who were in the same place she once was.

“When people bring me stuff that I haven’t looked at in five years and they’re like, ‘How do I do this?’ I’m like, “How do you do that?” Newman laughs. “Then I’m going to find out, and we kind of learn together that way.”

Newman was also the Student Government Association representative for Lingua, a campus language and culture club, and was a member of Alpha Mu Gamma, the national collegiate foreign languages ​​honor society.

UMSL also gave him the opportunity to return to Spain. Newman was part of the Fall 2019 Class of International Bond Fellows and was awarded $ 5,000 to study at Universitat Abat Oliba CEU in Barcelona.

The study abroad program was supposed to last six months in the spring semester of 2020, but unfortunately it coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and was cut short by several months.

Looking back, the unforeseen obstacle did not dampen Newman’s memories of the city. She immersed herself in the way of life there, walking for groceries while soaking up centuries-old architecture, chatting with neighbors and contacting Abat Oliba’s international students.

“I was so in the moment in every second that I was there,” she said. “Of course there were things that I hadn’t been able to see, but I really felt like a real Spaniard because I lived there as a student more than on vacation.”

Although immediately after returning to the United States, Newman was unsure of his future. The experience, especially dealing with her feelings about the pandemic, helped her realize that she wanted further consultations.

“My mental health during that time had taken a bit of a hit just because I had been looking forward to studying abroad for so long,” she said. “Coming home in quarantine, staying in my room for two weeks straight, I was like, ‘Wow, this is different’ and maintaining relationships in my social circle has become crucial to my happiness. We came to develop a great support system to check everyone’s sanity with whatever was going on. Due to the satisfaction of these experiences, I started to think about what it would be like if this could be something I could do as a job in the future.

“That’s when I started playing around with the idea of ​​becoming a mental health counselor. I have been the person that a lot of people in my life turn to for advice, but I never got hold of this, it might be my job someday because I was so addicted to Spanish.

The advice of a friend at UMSL specializing in psychology helped tip the scales. Newman’s friend suggested that she combine the language skills she had developed with a degree in counseling, noting that many Spanish-speaking people seeking mental health services often have limited options.

With this encouragement, Newman applied and was accepted into the MEd counseling program. She also attributes her continued success at UMSL to the Faculty of Linguistic and Cultural Studies, especially Assistant Professor Amy D’Agrosa, who helped her build her confidence and get a feel for herself. in the Spanish program.

Spanish will always be an integral part of Newman’s life, but she is excited to start learning a new discipline.

“I’m going to be a counselor because that’s what I look forward to doing every day once I leave college,” she said. “I think it’s going to make it look like all the uncertainty that led to this was worth it.”

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