Hi, I’m Nika.
Born in Azerbaijan, raised in Los Angeles.
Studied at UC Berkeley. Went abroad to France.
Taught in Bordeaux, with TAPIF.
In my junior year at UC Berkeley, I studied for a semester in Bordeaux, France. It was a transformative experience. I began to write more than ever before and experience life through a new angle. I made friends both from France and from my program, and had the opportunity to travel. While abroad, I kept a blog, letting the world know what I was up to. I documented what it was like to live away from home, and how it felt to redefine yourself through another culture and language all the while wondering what I was going to do once I finish school.
Coming back to the US, I continued with my blog, NikaLikesMaps. I worked on my follow-up video and encouraged friends and acquaintances to go out and experience the world by telling them it was possible with planning and prudence. I never failed to mention the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship which has helped me tremendously with finances abroad. I volunteered at Berkeley’s study abroad fair in the fall and looked for opportunities to meet international students.
But when I came back to the US, I knew something else. I wanted to go back to France. In my first week back and after rigorous internet research, I came across TAPIF, the Teaching Assistant Program In France. It is a program of the French Embassy’s Department of Cultural Services which sends Americans to France to teach English. I was in. So, in my last year at college, I tutored French at the French department at UC Berkeley, taught English at the East Bay Sanctuary of Berkeley (a program that I started and ran), and privately tutored two Japanese students learning English. As I did these activities weekly, I also continued my education at my university where I studied linguistics, French and Spanish. Where as before being abroad I majored only in linguistics, now I was easily able to declare a double major in French as well. I read French literature, translated English, Spanish and French, took a methodology course on teaching the French language, and worked to save up for plans after college.
In short, my last year at Berkeley was me looking for international opportunities as I thought about life after college. Do I want to teach in France? What should I do to prepare for that? Do I want to pursue a Master’s Degree? In the US or in France? What profession should I pursue? What do I need to do to get there and who do I have to meet? Are there events I need to attend? Research I should be reading? Blogs I should be keeping? Should I start a YouTube channel and a Facebook page for learners of the English language?
I did start a YouTube channel and a Facebook page. And I got accepted to teach with TAPIF (and in Bordeaux too!). So I’ll be going back to France in the fall. But many of the other questions, I still had and have unanswered. But I know one thing. The languages I have studied and the experiences I have gained both abroad and at home would never, ever hurt.