Major and year of graduation: French; 2006 (Minor: German)
Alum Anne Chitwood graduated from NMU in 2006, followed by her teaching English in Austria with a Fullbright Teaching Assistantship. Besides English, Chitwood can speak French and German. She lives and works in Russia right now.
1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? When and what brought you to Northern Michigan University? What did you study (major/minor)? What languages, etc.
I transferred to NMU in the winter of 2003. It won the contest because of its teaching program, gorgeous wilderness, and the fact they would let me study abroad where I wanted at the time: Dijon, France. I originally wanted to major in English Education, but my French professor at my previous university- Grace College (IN) recognized my motivation and love for language and culture and encouraged me to change majors. After a semester of conversational French at NMU, I headed off to test and improve my language skills and while travelling to Germany on holiday, decided to declare my minor German. I’d already had a good background in the language since I had spent my first five years of my life in Germany and my mom taught us at home sometimes. After I graduated, I followed in the footsteps of Monique Yoder and applied for a Fullbright Teaching Assistantship in Austria, and spent a very happy year in the Alps, learning my fourth language- Tirolerish (or to be more specific –Lienzerish).
2. What are you doing now? Where are you? Where are you working?
I absolutely loved teaching English in Austria, so after 2 ½ years starting up a French/German program at Pine River Schools, I decided to plunge into yet another culture and language—Russia. I took a month training course on teaching English grammar and I’m on my second year teaching in St. Petersburg, Russia now.
3. Does your second language come into play outside from work?
I’ve spoken French while vacationing in Canada and France, and have even used it here in Russia. I use German much more frequently as I go to visit family in Germany rather often and last year I made friends with a lot of German volunteers here in St. Petersburg! It’s a lot of fun, but I do have a hard time juggling more than two languages at a time and get brain freeze if I’ve been speaking Russian and English and then try to switch to German. When I was an assistant in Austria, our students stared at us in astonishment or maybe confusion when they heard me and Elke (the French assistant) speak our mélange.
4. Is this where you imagined yourself after ending up after Northern?
The sky’s the limit.
5. What is a favorite memory you have from your language studying days at Northern?
6. What suggestions/advice do you have for beginning students in terms of studying the language?
As a beginner in Russian, my advice is don’t be afraid. If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not learning. The goal is to communicate and to have fun getting to know people from around the world! Along those lines, use your language in a real way. Travelling abroad helps not only to seriously improve language skills, but it is incredibly motivating and an everyday is an adventure. (Survivor has got nothing on studying abroad; in fact maybe they should do a reality study abroad show.)
7. What are your other interests besides teaching/How you spend your spare time?
Free time? What free time? Besides sleeping…which you tend to do a lot of in November at 60 degrees north, I am taking Russian lessons, going for long walks in the woods (I live in a suburb- Peterhof), getting together with friends on weekends. Last summer I was able to join the American team in a Russian camp, where we put together English clubs and helped out in morning English classes. I was definitely made for that sort of thing.
8. Do you have a favorite quote to share with NMU students?
In tenth grade, Mr. Harrison had us all choose out two of our favorite quotes from American Literature that we were reading that year. My favorite was, and still is “I wanted to live deep and suck out the marrow of life.” (Thoreau)