Students working in Jamrich

Alumni Spotlights features alumni who have studied languages at NMU. By highlighting the post-graduation experiences of its language-loving alumni, the Department of Languages, Literatures and International Studies hopes to draw attention to the diverse opportunities available to language students, and the ways in which language can be used for personal enjoyment and enrichment beyond the classroom.

If you would like to be part of Alumni Spotlights, or know of someone we should catch up with, please send us an email with your first and last name, graduation year, language(s) studied, and a brief description of what you're doing now - we’ll be in touch!​


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?

Stammtisch—hands down.

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)

Majors and year of graduation: Spanish, French; 2010 (Minor: International Studies)

Amber Shumard was selected as the Department of Languages, Literatures and International Studies's Outstanding Graduating Senior. Shumard majored in and has high proficiency in both Spanish and French and minored in International Studies. Additionally, she has studied Russian, German, Latin and Portuguese and Italian. She participated in three summer abroad programs and worked as a tutor in the language resource center.


Major and year of graduation: English; 2005 (Minors: Biology, Writing, German)

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.

My name is Monique Yoder, and I am from Michigan.  I started my Bachelor's degree at NMU in the fall of 2000 right after I completed high school.  What brought me to NMU at the time was its distance from southwest Michigan.  For me, it was important to go far away from home for my college studies – to be in an environment completely different than what I had known.  Since NMU was far from home, but still in-state and affordable, I chose to study in Marquette, MI.  Of course, Marquette's natural landscape was also a huge motivation for studying at NMU. 

Initially, I was a Biochemistry major, but I changed my major to English Graduate Prep after 5 semesters in the program.  I had missed writing and humanities studies, so I opted to pursue a degree in English literature.  In the end, by doing summer studies for four consecutive summers, I finished my undergraduate studies with a BA in English and minors in Biology, Writing, and German.

2. What are you doing now? Where are you? Where are you working? 

Right now, I'm a Senior Language Instructor at the English Language Centre at Sultan Qaboos University in the Sultanate of Oman.  I teach foundational English to freshmen university students whose English is not proficient enough coming from their secondary education backgrounds to competently cope with the level of English demanded of them in their major studies.  The language medium of instruction at SQU is English.  This is my second year at SQU.  I live in Muscat, the capital. 

3. Has your second language benefited your career? If so, how has it helped?

Having German as a second language has greatly benefited my career in that it gave me my foothold in the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) field.  Immediately after graduating from NMU, my plan was to start the MA TESOL degree at Michigan State University.  However, through the encouragement of Carol Strauss Sotiropolous, I applied for a Fulbright Foreign Language Assistant position with the Austrian-American Fulbright Commission.  Through a series of events, a position became available, and I was able to defer my graduate studies enrollment to live and teach in eastern Austria for 10 months.  A requisite for the position was to have a working knowledge of German, which I had achieved from 2 years of study at NMU and a summer study abroad in Vienna, Austria in 2005.

4. Does your second language come into play outside from work? 

Although I am no longer living in a German-speaking work and living environment, I am able to use my German here in Oman since there are a number of professors at the university who hail from Germany.  As Germans are known for being keen travelers, many of the prominent tourist destinations here in Oman have museum and direction information in German.  If the English translation from Arabic is poor, I opt for the German translation.   

5. Is this where you imagined yourself after ending up after Northern? 

Absolutely not.  After finishing my MA TESOL degree, it was my intent to return to Europe to teach English as a foreign or second language.  I was offered a job in Klaipeda, Lithuania to do a year of service teaching with LCC International University.  In an effort to not be crippled by my graduate school debt and to seize the opportunity to explore the Middle East first-hand, I opted to teach at Prince Mohammed bin Fahd University in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia (2008-2010).  I was, however, able to service teach with LCC International University's Summer Language Institute for two summers in 2008 and this past year. 

Now, in my fourth year living in the Arabian Gulf, I'm continuing to learn more about Omani culture.  To fully understand both the tribal and religious elements of the culture, an understanding of the Arabic language is necessary.  Although Arabic has proved to be more difficult for me to learn than German, I enjoy the challenge of the right-to-left script and relying on few cognates.    

6. What is a favorite memory you have from your language studying days at Northern? 

My favorite memory that I have from my language study days at Northern is actually a collection of memories of playing language games and speaking informally at the weekly Stammtisch meetings at, what was then, the Panini Grill.  Now I think it's Jimmy John's sandwich shop, but don't quote me on that.

7. Tell us more about your experiences brought into life by the Fulbright scholarship.

While I did not fully understand or appreciate my purpose as a Fulbright foreign language assistant at the time, I have now come to understand the value of having average American citizens sent as individuals to foreign countries to be ambassadors for our culture and representatives of our higher education system.  At the time that I was doing my assistantship, the year was 2005, and there was a lot of anti-American sentiment on the part of the Central Europeans that I met and interacted with.  However, as an individual working and living with them in their personal spheres, I was able to demonstrate to them through my character and work that not all Americans fit into the stereotype that has been shaped for them over the years.  Through my experience in Austria, I was able to take the importance of that lesson and apply it to my work in Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.  In addition to teaching students third-person singular 's' and word order, my students and I mutually break down the cultural and foreign policy barriers that often separate us. 

8. Did you study abroad while finishing up your degree from NMU? Tell us more about it.

I did the one-month study abroad in Vienna with Robert Goodrich and Carol Sotiropolous in May of 2005.  Initially, I wasn't going to do the study abroad, but Carol encouraged me to do it, citing that in doing so, I'd not only be able to experience German in context, but also earn enough credits to complete a German minor.  While in Vienna, I was aided by a very accommodating professor at Universitaet Wien who helped me get copies of materials on the Wiener Kreis (The Vienna Circle), a group of philosophers and intellectuals at the turn of the 20th-century.  My research purpose that summer was to explore the question, "Why does Vienna think the way that it does?"  -- a complementary research project to another fellow NMU student at the time who was researching why Vienna looks the way it does. 

Aside from the linguistic benefits of studying in Vienna, it was my first opportunity to experience my research interests in context of their real-life settings.  After doing this research, I developed enough confidence to then travel independently to other places to apply the same strategies to further exploring other research interests of mine, namely going to Dublin, Ireland to research the life of James Joyce and his works.  

9. Do you think studying abroad an eye-opening experience? What would you say to current NMU students?

Studying abroad is definitely an eye-opening experience.  Living in a different culture and geographical location is very disorienting.  Through this disorientation, though, great understanding, patience, and an appreciation for how other cultures, as well as our own, do things is born.  I would recommend that if current NMU students have the time, resources, and drive to submerge themselves in a foreign environment, that they go for it.  As the job market becomes increasingly global and hypercompetitive, learning how to work and cope with people from different cultures is a valuable skill to have.  As Ludwig Wittgenstein observed, "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."

10. What suggestions/advice do you have for beginning students in terms of studying the language?

My recommendation for beginning students learning German is to find either a German-speaking soap opera or television series of interest to help with listening and pragmatics (culturally accepted language use) comprehension.  Let's face it, the only way to improve learning a language, like any other skill, is to practice as much as possible.  The more exposure you can give yourself to the language, the better.  Even if it is watching a YouTube clip for 20 minutes a day, it's still language input that, over time, will become a part of your working language framework. 

11. What are your other interests besides teaching? How you spend your spare time?

In addition to teaching, I enjoy reading, writing, traveling, swimming, walking, and hiking.  In my spare time on the weekends, I visit families of my students in different villages (some pretty remote) around the Sultanate.  Since 2008, I have kept a blog to try to capture the poignant, quirky, and comedic moments that I've encountered through varies cross- and inter-cultural experiences living and traveling abroad.  Here is the link to my blog for the ones who are interested: 

12. Do you have a favorite quote to share with NMU students? 

"One never reaches home, but where friendly paths intersect, the whole world looks like home for a time." ~ Hermann Hesse

13. Anything else you want to add?

As much as you can, take advantage of the extra-curricular activities that NMU offers, whether it is a sports club, language club, or academic club.  All of these opportunities offer the chance to interact and communicate with others that are different and similar to us – a skill that is also helpful in communicating in a second language.

Major and year of graduation: Social Studies Secondary Education; 2009 (Minor: German)

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 originally come from and grew up in Dearborn, Michigan and chose Northern for its beautiful environment and friendly people.  I also always wanted to teach and liked the individuality and personal touch that NMU’s Department of Education offered.  I decided to study Secondary Education Social Studies with a minor in History education but after two study abroad trips to Vienna and Berlin, I decided to minor in German because of my deep interest in German culture.

2.  What are you doing now? Where are you? Where are you working?

Currently I am teaching German at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, Illinois and absolutely loving it.

3.  Has your second language benefited your career? If so, how has it helped?

My second language has opened so many doors for me.  Not only did it grant me access to an amazing 2-year Fulbright Scholarship in Austria, the language that I studied at NMU has become my passion and livelihood.  Every day I have the opportunity to encourage a new generation of students to find new connections through the German language and culture.  Funny job-hunt anecdote, when applying across the country for teaching jobs, 9 out of every 10 callbacks for interviews were solely foreign language positions.  Only two school districts called for Social Studies and History. 

4.  Does your second language come into play outside from work?

Now that I am established in my community and people know me as a German teacher, I have become approached by many native German speakers, those who have studied German, and German companies in the area.  There’s a lot of German culture here in Northern Illinois and a lot of German History here to so there are countless opportunities to use my language skills.

5.  Is this where you imagined yourself after ending up after Northern?

Not at all.  I knew that I wanted to teach but I never dreamed that I would actually teach German.  It was my great experiences on Study Abroad, as well as the friendly NMU German community that really fostered my interest in the German language and pushed me to proficiency.  I am still improving my craft as a foreign language teacher, but I am having a great time while working with amazing students.

6.  What is a favorite memory you have from your language studying days at Northern?

One of my favorite memories was outside of the classroom when our German Stammtisch group would meet for a Nikolausfeier in the Whitman Commons.  German Students, community members, Frau Dr. Strauss, and Herr Ahlers would all meet for a really nice arrangement of cookies, punches, ciders, and of course Nikolaus would bring us gifts.  It was goofy singing “Lass uns Froh und Munter sein” with Frau Dr. Strauss, but it’s a great memory that I have and it was special for us all to meet together and celebrate German culture.

7.  Tell us more about your experiences brought into life by the Fulbright scholarship.

My time in Austria was absolutely amazing.  I spent two school years working at five different schools Eastern Styria teaching Austrian students everything from baseball to the US Constitution.  I worked directly with the Austrian students and teachers and I conducted supplementary classes within the Federal curriculum.  I even chaperoned three week-long, student field trips to Croatia and Alpine ski trips.  The students and teachers that I worked with were wonderful and I learned so much from them.

Outside of school I tried to engage in as many cultural activities as possible such as celebrating Christmas in a small Styrian village, snowboarding in the Alps, biking to nearby castles, and singing in local choirs.  These experiences were some of the most spontaneous, unplanned events but they taught me more about Austrian culture than any book or video ever could.

 I am happy that many of my Austrian students and colleagues are still good friends and we correspond.  Currently I am working to organize a student exchange with a few of my Austrian colleagues.  I hope to offer my students the opportunity to visit this wonderful place and learn as much as they can.

8.  Did you study abroad while finishing up your degree from NMU? Tell us more about it…

I studied abroad twice and I look back upon these experiences as the true ignitions to my foreign language study.  I spent a great semester in 2006 with AHA in Vienna, Austria

which focused upon Language, Culture, Art, Music, and History.  I couldn’t believe that we could learn about the Habsburgs in class and then walk outside to see the palaces in which they lived or the actual crowns that they wore. 

My second study abroad experience was an 8week intensive language course with the Goethe Institut in Berlin.  I knew at that point that I was serious about language acquisition and this trip was great.  Berlin is a great city for young people, with no end of things to do.  I was there from May to July and couldn’t have had more fun.  Both of these trips were homestays, which really helped my language acquisition and connection to the culture.

9.  Do you think studying abroad an eye-opening experience? What would you say to current NMU students?

Every student should study abroad and I encourage all of my current students to get out of their comfort zones to see the world.  America is a great place but you can’t truly appreciate it or criticize it until you see what things are like elsewhere.  My experiences on study abroad undoubtedly changed me for the better and I learned from my triumphs and failures.

One extra bit of advice that I would give is to really engage the language of the country you visit.  So many of my colleagues on study abroad became stuck because their abilities and interests in the language were so weak.  They never engaged the culture by confining themselves with other Americans or people who would only speak English with them.  Language is the key to culture and if you don’t engage the language, you can never really access or understand the culture you are studying.  Do whatever you have to do to seek out opportunities to have fun and make mistakes with the language.  It’ll pay off.

10.  What suggestions/advice do you have for beginning students in terms of studying the language?

Stick with it and study abroad.  Languages are tough to learn.  They’re difficult to get the hang of and their constantly changing.  The best way to learn a language, however, is to spark yourself through study abroad.  I never knew how much I’d like German until I went to Austria and spent a semester.  Then I knew that I had to stick with it and it has taken me to some amazing places.

11.  What are your other interests besides teaching/How you spend your spare time?

I love the outdoors so anything outside is fun for me.  Walking my new puppy and getting out to go biking or snowboarding are always great.  When the weather is bad, I try to read and keep myself connected with friends all over the world through social media.

12.  Do you have a favorite quote to share with NMU students?

“If you set out to take Vienna, Take Vienna!!!”  Napoleon Bonaparte said this and it has stuck with me for years before I studied in Vienna and long after.  Determination and hard work will take you where you want to go, even if the destination that you end up at is not the one initially set out to attain.

13.  Anything else you want to add……

Go Cats!!!

Majors and year of graduation: Secondary German and English Education; 2012

Jaime VanEnkevort is a native Yooper, hailing from the small town of Bark River, Michigan. She has three great loves in her life: food, nature, and family. A lover of art and culture, Jaime is interested in the German Expressionist movement and also appreciates the work of Egon Schiele and Hundertwasser. One day, she hopes to write poetry as gracefully as Rilke and honestly as Jack Gilbert.

1. What is your Fulbright plan?

My Fulbright plan is teaching! While the traditional Fulbright is a research grant, the program has been expanded, especially in Germany and Austria, to include English Teaching Assistantships. I'll be assisting in secondary English classrooms in Austria, acting as a cultural representative and diplomat.

2. What, when and where are you going (to be)?

I'll be placed in Kitzbuehel, Austria, starting mid-September of 2012. It's a rural area right on the base of the Alps; it's in the western state of Tyrol. Dr. Jon Sherman mentioned that it's internationally renowned for skiing.

I'll return in May or June of 2013; it's a nine month grant. If the schools like having you, they can ask you back for another year.

3. What are you up to this semester of Winter 2012?  Are you graduating in May 2012?

This semester has been wild. I'm completing my student teaching this Wednesday, May 2nd at Marquette Alternative High School. I've been so fortunate to be placed at the Alternative; the teaching methods are innovative and applicable to the real world, the students are diverse and unique, and the staff/faculty are some of most compassionate, intelligent, and energetic people I've ever worked with.

I'm graduating with my teaching certification in Secondary German and English in May, and I'm looking forward to the Education Banquet and getting pinned as a new teacher on May 4th.

4. Anything else you’d like to share with NMU fellow students?

I just want to re-iterate a message someone once passed on to me that I didn't necessarily like hearing at the time, but helped me to keep pursuing what I wanted: Don't give up. Don't feel bad for yourself. Keep trying.

This is the third time I applied for a Fulbright, and many, many different applications for various study abroad grants and programs came before this. Don't give up - keep working toward your goals.

To read more about the Austrian Fulbright, please visit its website:


Majors and year of graduation: International Studies, Spanish; 1997 (Minor: Business)

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? What brought you to Northern Michigan University? What did you study?

I am originally from southern Germany and came to Marquette first in December 1992 to visit my pen-pal with whom I had been in touch since he visited my hometown in 1985 and stayed with me for a week. Up until then, the idea of studying overseas had not crossed my mind, but since I was going to finish up an apprenticeship in Germany in 1993, I thought “why not follow that up with studies in the US”. I popped into the admissions office, had a quick chat with a counselor, filled out the application at home, sent it in, received an admission letter, and the rest is history. I enrolled in International Studies with a business minor and later added Spanish as a major as well, because I had so much fun in the Spanish class and Prof. Compton was such an excellent teacher and mentor.

2. What are you doing now? Where are you? Where are you working?

 I live in Nairobi, Kenya with my family and work for an organization called Oxfam, one of the biggest humanitarian aid organizations in the world. My job is to look after projects and funding in Somalia, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The particular focus of my work is on supporting emergency projects in water and sanitation, livelihoods, education, and capacity building for local community organizations. I travel frequently to various project areas where access is possible. Given the situation in Somalia and in parts of Sudan, it is not always easy to get to specific areas.

3. Has your second language benefited your career? If so, how has it helped?

I enjoy speaking Spanish wherever I can, although it does not play a major role in my current job. The language of International Development is English, so there is very little room for other languages as the most common denominator among people from different places around the world is often English. I do have a colleague from Spain, who works with me in the Nairobi office, so I do get a chance to apply my language skills now and then. When I was still working in South Africa and was close to the border with Mozambique, the Spanish came in handy to understand Portuguese colleagues, although I claim no speaking ability in Portuguese.

4. Does your second language come into play outside from work?

There a few Spanish speakers in Nairobi, so apart from my good colleague from Spain, it is difficult to speak Spanish outside of that context. There is an annual Spanish Ball, however, but I have not been there yet.

5. Is this where you imagined yourself ending up after Northern?

The good thing is that I never imagined any particular place. I just knew that the time at NMU and the accompanying credentials would get me places and most of my career has been a mixture of personal tenacity, presented opportunities, good flexibility, and pure luck. I knew that I wanted to work in Africa and I left NMU in 1997 to move to South Africa. After that I knew that once arrived on the continent, opportunities would present themselves and an exciting journey would begin. It has so far been 1 3 years and I cannot wait to find out what is around the next corner.

6. What is a favorite memory you have from your language studying days at Northern?

I really enjoyed the journey from Spanish 101 over 201, then 305 to 405 and my independent study in South America. All along I was accompanied by Prof Compton and it was magic to see this kind of progression and increased passion about a language over the course of about 3 years. I remember the little quizzes on irregular verbs, which always brought me cold shivers as I never quite seemed to get these irregularities sorted out in my head. The struggle continues.

7. What advice would you give to students currently studying a language at Northern Michigan University, in regards to their future after college?

Study with gusto, find ways to apply the language as often as possible, spend time in the places where the language is spoken, learn as many languages as possible, and see with what other skills you can combine it as there is nothing more powerful than a person with three or four languages under his/ her belt and some sound technical knowledge. Especially in the world of International Development, this is a perfect combination.

Majors and year of graduation: English; 1999 (Minor: Spanish)

Welcome to our new faculty Mary Antonia Andronis.  Mary was born (and lived her earliest years) in Chicago, before moving to Marquette at age 12.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from NMU, with a major in English and a minor in Spanish. 

With the help of the International Programs and Financial Aide Offices at NMU, Mary spent her last semester of college in a study abroad program in Spain.  It was an experience she describes as having been life-changing.  For this reason, she continues to be a big proponent of study abroad and language immersion programs, and says that “Every student should study abroad for some time; it may spark an interest you never even knew you had, and take you in an entirely different direction”.  If Mary hadn’t studied Spanish in college and spent half a year in Spain, she may not have gotten into the field of linguistics to do the research and teaching that she loves today.

Mary holds an M.A. in Anthropological Linguistics and is ABD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago.  Since 2001, her research has been focused primarily on Quichua, one of the indigenous languages spoken in Ecuador.  Her Master’s thesis examined the mixing of Quichua and Spanish in various communities in Ecuador, and her doctoral dissertation addresses issues of Quichua language standardization, dialectal differences, and language shift in a small indigenous community in Central Ecuador.  Over the years, Mary has conducted fieldwork in Amazonian Ecuador, as well as in the Andean highlands, although says that she prefers the highlands.  (“There are not so many snakes there as in the Amazon.”)  After receiving the Fulbright-Hays grant for Ecuador, she lived in the highlands for two full years.  Throughout the course of her research in Ecuador, Mary has worked closely with indigenous not-for-profit foundations.  Some of her past projects with these foundations include: building a locally-run Quichua language radio station, helping to run the growing charter school in the community and develop its volunteer program, establishing and planting organic community gardens, and also more generally working to promote indigenous education and language revitalization projects.

Mary teaches SN 101 Elementary Spanish and hopes to also teach SN 314 Latin American Culture next semester. When she isn’t teaching, Mary also works as a linguistic consultant for a translation software company. Her hobbies include playing the guitar, knitting, and tending to a growing collection of orchids. Her suggestion for beginning Spanish students is to immerse themselves in the language as much as possible; through movies, music, TV shows, and of course travel, if possible.  Her favorite quote about language is: “La lengua nos hace y en ella nos hacemos.”  (Language makes us, and in language we make ourselves.) –Manuel Alvar

Majors and year of graduation: Spanish, International Studies; 2006

Professional Certification: CMI (Spanish) from the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters

Hometown: Munising, MI

Current city: Brooklyn, NY

Life in New York

Kelly Hoover is a nationally certified medical interpreter of Spanish.  She currently works in Queens, NY where she coordinates a language assistance program at Jamaica Hospital and instructs her own medical interpreting classes for the City University of New York.

A look back at NMU... 

Languages studied at NMU: Spanish, Portuguese

Why did you choose to study those languages?

Spanish was the only language offered in my high school when I was a student so when I got to NMU I already had a good base and chose to continue.  Portuguese because it is so similar to Spanish.

When did you begin your language education?

8th Grade

Have you studied another language since graduating from NMU? Where?

I studied Korean, while in Korea and since. 

Did you have a favorite language instructor at NMU?

Dr. Compton - an excellent professor and advisor. 

While still an NMU student, where did you find opportunities to speak the language you were learning outside of the classroom?

I worked in the language lab tutoring other students, made friends with international students, and joined the Spanish Club. 

While still an NMU student, did you study abroad? Where did you go, and why? How did the experience enhance your studies? Did it influence your future plans? 

I studied abroad once in Costa Rica and later in Guatemala.  While I don’t remember what convinced me to head to Costa Rica, a fellow student and a favorite book of mine (Secrets of the Talking Jaguar) that was assigned for a non language-related class influenced me to go to Guatemala.  Thankfully, it was one of the best experiences of my life.  Studying abroad in my opinion should be mandatory for language majors.  I perfected my accent and did heavy duty work on my grammar while abroad.  While I was in Guatemala I went to school, lived with a host family and ended up working at an American bar and for a cell phone company doing promotional work at the same time.  I loved it so much I even changed my plane ticket to extend my stay another month, getting back just in time for the NMU graduation. 

Did you have an opportunity to work abroad? 

I worked as an ESL Teacher in South Korea for one year, I highly recommend it.  My experience finding a job was quick, easy and my bosses were trustworthy.

A memorable thing that happened to you when traveling abroad (either pre or post-graduation from NMU): 

While I was studying in Guatemala, I was walking down the cobblestone streets in Antigua when a girl on the other side of the street started yelling and waving at me.  I looked at her as if she were an alien probably, but when it was safe she ran over to my side of the street and I recognized her - she was a fellow NMU student that had been in one of my classes the semester prior!  Neither of us knew the other was going to Guatemala.  On the same note, I also coincidentally met NMU graduates and people from Marquette in South Korea and Costa Rica. 

Your favorite foreign language word or phrase (and what it means):

 먹었어?  Which is pronounced like Bap meogeosseo?” is something the older lady in the kimbap restaurant around the corner would always ask me in Korea.  Literally, this is an adult’s way of saying to a child “have you eaten rice?” but it is also one of their most common greetings in Korea.  I love that their culture is so closely tied to their food.  

Majors and year of graduation: Spanish; 2007 (Minor: Latin American Studies)

Jesse Greenleaf is native to Marquette, Michigan and attended NMU from 2003-2007. His major was Spanish language and his minor was Latin American Studies. Jesse studied abroad for one year in Buenos Aires, Argentina (2006). His Spanish improved greatly by being in a Spanish-speaking environment. He always spoke Spanish with his Colombian co-workers and friends.

Jesse has fond memories about his experience at NMU. As he recalls, “My favorite memory is associating myself with the intelligent faculty at NMU, especially with those from the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. The quality and expertise of the classes were superb and I often look back on those memories and miss being home.” Jesse is always proud to be a Wildcat!

After graduating from NMU, Jesse went to South Korea and taught English there for two years. Currently, he is a teaching assistant at Minnesota State University (MNSU), where he instructs Elementary Spanish classes (2009-2011) and is completing his MA in Teaching English as a Second Language.

Knowing a second language has helped Jesse greatly. He receives a full waiver in tuition and a living stipend for his graduate studies. It has also allowed him to meet countless numbers of people who he cherishes as friends. Added to these is the benefit of speaking to local people when traveling to Latin America. Jesse says, “Having a broad idea of why you want to study a foreign language will greatly help form your future after you graduate.”

Majors and year of graduation: Secondary Spanish Education, Secondary History Education; 2007

Professional Certification: TEFL

Hometown: Waldo, WI

Current city: Ciudtadella de Menorca, Spain

Life in Spain

Ashley currently lives with her husband in Menorca, Spain, where she conducts homework support classes for a private academy and works as a freelance English teacher. Previously, Ashley was employed for three years as a language assistant through the Spanish government's Cultural Ambassadors program. Read on below to learn about Ashley's journey from NMU undergraduate to teacher in Spain.

A look back at NMU... 

Language studied at NMU: Spanish

Why did you choose to study those languages? 

At my high school the only options were Spanish and German, at the time I thought that Spanish was the better option for me.

When did you begin your language education?

In middle school, with an 8-week course.

Have you studied another language since graduating from NMU? 

I am currently studying Catalan, which is the primary language in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. 

Did you have a favorite language class at NMU?

My best language class was how to teach language with Dr. Compton. It was great being immersed in the different languages of the students in the class.

A funny memory from one of your NMU language classes...

I remember when Professor Orf told us about the things that she likes: tuna and chocolate, separate, not together!

While still an NMU student, where did you find opportunities to speak the language you were learning outside of the classroom?

I did a little bit of work in Sandy Knoll elementary school teaching some vocabulary to the students there. I was also able to keep in touch with people I met while studying abroad in Salamanca.

How did the experience in Salamanca enhance your studies? Did it influence your future plans? 

I chose to study abroad in Salamanca because I had been there in high school - and for its prestigious University. It is also one of the places where Spanish is spoken in a very pure form - according to Salmantinos, the most perfect Spanish in the world. I was able to meet most of my language requirements by studying aboard for an academic year. Studying abroad literally changed my life, as I met my future husband while he was studying Biology in Salamanca. It made me become an English teacher rather than a Spanish teacher!

Did you get married in Spain? If so, what was that experience like?

We did! When we decided to get married in 2011, we paid all the fees and went through all the famous Spanish government red tape only to arrive at the town hall in Santiago de Compostela to find out we had been forgotten about! It was during Carnaval, a holiday where people get dressed up in costumes and go out, so they assumed that we were there celebrating the holiday. In the end we got married an hour later than scheduled and made it into the newspaper, which you can read here (in Spanish):

Your favorite foreign language word or phrase (and what it means):

My favorite Spanish verb is “zarpar”, which means to set sail. In English we have so many phrasal verbs, but in Spanish even the most specific action has its own verb entirely.

Majors and year of graduation: Spanish, English; 2010 (Minor: German)

Jessica Parker is originally from Gladstone, MI and chose Northern Michigan University for its small class size and the beauty of the city of Marquette. During her time at Northern from 2007 to 2010, her major was Spanish and English and she also had a minor in German.

Currently Jessica is in a Master’s degree program in Spanish Literature at UW-Madison.  She is a full time graduate student while teaching a Spanish 101 class at the university as part of her teaching assistantship. Jessica’s experience at UW-Madison is great so far. She reports that the professors are friendly and helpful and the classes are very interesting. She also says that it’s a rigorous program but she is learning a lot. Jessica finds that she uses Spanish all the time, inside and outside of the university. She speaks with people on the bus using Spanish and often with some families that live in her apartment building. It is a very commonly spoken language in her area.

Jessica has fond memories about her study abroad for three weeks in Guanajuato, Mexico with NMU Professor Michael Joy in summer 2009. She got to know the town, to visit museums like the mummy museum and one of Diego Rivera’s houses. It was her first time on an airplane and first experience outside the U.S.

Jessica encourages NMU students to study abroad. She says, “I think that it is absolutely necessary to go abroad at least once during undergraduate studies. I know it’s hard to find the money and time to go but even if you can make it for a few weeks it will be an unforgettable time in your life…….I am not one who would want to study abroad for a whole semester so I would recommend to anyone else who feels that way that they find a 4-6 week program in the summer and do that.”

Asked about the suggestions for beginning students learning Spanish, Jessica says, “I found Spanish to be a very easy language to learn and the most rewarding thing about language learning is that you see the results of your studying so quickly. It's a visible process. Each week you are able to say more, read more and understand more of the language. It can be frustrating in the beginning when you have so much to say in your Spanish class before you can say it but you only need a little patience. It gets much better fast!”

Outside of studying and teaching Spanish Jessica is interested in English literature, translation, and music. She writes fiction and poetry in English and hopes to incorporate creative writing into her graduate studies. She also writes and records her own music in rare moments of free time. Translation has always been interesting to her and she is enrolled in a Poetry translation course this semester at UM-Madison. “I hope to work more with translating contemporary poetry, fiction and literature without genre from Spanish to English. What interests me most is what is being written right now; the things which no one has translated or critiqued or analyzed. I want to wade deep in the uncharted territory of the very contemporary literary world.

Majors and year of graduation: Elementary Education/Language Arts, Spanish Minor; 2011

Hometown: Marquette, MI

Current city: Green Bay, WI

Life as a bilingual teacher:

What is your typical teaching day like? 

I work from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. I teach all of the core subjects (Science, Social Studies, Literacy, and Math). I teach 90 minutes of math every morning in Spanish. We also have a 3-hour literacy block in the afternoons that is taught in English. Science is taught Monday and Wednesday in English, and we will start Social Studies next month in English. All specials (gym, music, and art) are taught in English. During the day I have students being pulled out for all kinds of different programs (Title I, math or literacy intervention, ESL, gifted and talented, speech, special ed, physical and occupational therapy, and guidance). There is a lot of traffic through my room all day and I very rarely have my whole class in my room at once.

What is most challenging about teaching?  What is most rewarding?

The most challenging thing for me is teaching through all of the distractions in my room and keeping my students on task. In the afternoon I have teachers coming to get students every 15 minutes. This creates a distraction for the other students and I have to get them back on track until the next person comes in 15 minutes.

The most rewarding thing about teaching is when I see my students understand a concept or use a trick I taught them in class. I love seeing that my teaching has made an impact on them.

How did you end up in your current position?

For one of my classes, we took a trip to Danz Elementary in Green Bay. I loved seeing their bilingual program and decided to try for a job there. I applied for an English-speaking elementary job in Green Bay because that was the one I was certified to teach. I got an email about a month later from someone in the ESL/Bilingual program in Green Bay asking if I had ever thought about teaching in a bilingual classroom. Since I am not certified as a bilingual teacher I had to take a fluency test after my interview. The test took almost 3 hours, but I passed and now I’m here teaching 3rd grade.

Do you have any advice for graduates seeking employment as a teacher?

Apply for everything. I applied for elementary jobs as well as art, music, and gym positions. Even if you get a job that you didn’t expect or aren’t that excited about, you still get that experience and you may find out that you really like that position.

A look back at NMU:

Languages studied at NMU: Spanish

Why did you choose to study those languages?

I started studying Spanish in 8th grade. I really enjoyed my classes and for me I was able to understand it easily. I wasn’t planning on minoring in Spanish, but I took a basic Spanish class to get some credits and remembered how much I liked it.

When did you begin your language education?

I started in 7th grade with a general language class and got chosen for our school’s one 8th grade Spanish class.

What do you remember about your NMU language classes?

My classes were great! The professors were very animated and knowledgeable. You could tell that they loved their jobs! A lot of them brought humor into the classroom, too, which made class much more fun to be in.

While still an NMU student, where did you find opportunities to speak the language you were learning outside of the classroom?

I met a few people from Mexico and Spain that I was able to speak with. I also taught my husband a little Spanish and would talk with him.

Did you study abroad when you were a student? How did the experience enhance your studies?

I went on a faculty led study abroad with Professor Orf to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was the first Spanish-speaking country I traveled to. I loved having a real-life experience where I had to speak Spanish. In Marquette it is easy to stop speaking Spanish once you are out of class, but when you are in Buenos Aires, you have to speak Spanish all the time!

How have the languages you studied at NMU enriched or enhanced your life, whether personally, academically, or professionally? 

Without the foreign language program I never would have been able to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina or student teach and work in Antigua, Guatemala. I also wouldn’t have my job as a bilingual teacher.

What was student teaching in Guatemala like?

I originally wanted to go back to Argentina, but because of the way the school year works, I ended up in Guatemala. It was my first experience teaching English to native Spanish speakers and I loved it! It helped me to prepare for the job I have now.

Speaking of student teaching, do you have any advice for students seeking employment abroad? 

Look at bilingual schools or American schools in the country you want to live in. The study abroad office at NMU has a lot of great resources. Also, even if you don’t find a job in your first-choice country, try a different place. I never thought I would live in Guatemala!

Majors and year of graduation: Spanish, English Education; 2011

Hometown: Sugar Grove, IL

Current city: Sugar Grove, IL

Alum Chris Paulus is currently working as a high school Spanish teacher at Byron High School in Byron, IL.  Chris teaches Spanish 1 and 2 to approximately 145 students. Read on below to learn more about Chris' job as a Spanish teacher, and his memories about language classes at NMU.

Spanish Teacher 101...

What is your typical teaching day like?

We have 81 minute periods A/B schedule.  I have three classes a day and I have one prep period. 

There are only two foreign language staff at Byron--what is it like teaching in such a small department?

I love teaching in a small department. The other teacher and I get along great. We utilize a UBD approach to teaching (Unit by design). It’s something that I’m still getting used to, but it’s growing on me. I like it because we can create units that we consider important and we try to teach Spanish in a culturally-relevant and authentic way. Our tests are based off of speaking and listening more than paper-based tests. I still think the textbook is a great resource, but YouTube is great for authentic interviews and Spanish language examples/conversations.

What has been one of your favorite lessons or projects so far?

For my Spanish 2 class, in our Heroism unit, I asked students to divide up into groups based on their favorite hero. They then had to develop a short presentation in Spanish explaining why they thought their hero was the best. We pulled up pictures, used our vocabulary sheets, used dictionaries, wrote our answers down, and practiced. It was great!

Do you have any plans to get students involved with Spanish outside of class?

The other Spanish teacher and I are going to take the higher-level Spanish classes to a flamenco dance/poetry later in November near our school. We will then be going to a Mexican restaurant to practice ordering food.

What is most challenging about teaching?  What is most rewarding?

I think that most challenging thing for me at this point is developing the curriculum. I am the first teacher to be trying out this new approach to teaching and to this new curriculum. So, I’ve kind of hit the ground running with this whole thing and I’m developing things as I go along. It’s also challenging to meet everyone else’s needs in the district while doing my own job. The kids here are a lot of fun. They, overall, have a great attitude. I’ve had a couple of kids approach me and say ‘hey, I was watching T.V. and I heard something in Spanish and I understood some of it!’ those are certainly the most rewarding moments.

Can you tell students a little bit more about the process of how you got the job at Byron?

Well it was actually a laborious and awful process. It involved a lot of tedious testing and approval of certification before a certain deadline. I could rant about that for about an hour. However, I used the website to apply for all kinds of jobs. I got about three responses looking for an interview. And, if they had already picked somebody, the system e-mailed you to let you know. Another wonderful plus is that they all used the same application system, so you could save your information to your e-mail and when you log in to a different website that uses the same system and lot of the main fields were saved and you could use them again.

Similarly, do you have any advice for graduates seeking teaching positions?

I suppose my advice is to have your certification ready before you apply. You can apply without it, because I got the job without my Illinois certification. But, it really expedites the process. Also, try to stick in the same state. I found that honesty in the interview got me a long way. If you’re honest, at least from my personal experience, you will find a favorable teaching staff and administration to work with. And, for god’s sake, don’t say that your strength is that you work too hard and sometimes devote too much time to your work. That response has been squeezed to its core.

In addition to teaching, how else have you used your language skills since graduating from NMU?

I have helped translate for some people, I have met new people, and I now have a high school teaching job at a wonderful district.

Have you studied another language since graduating from NMU? Where?

On my own, I’ve dabbled with audio and video programs and books. I’ve traveled to Europe since my graduation and took time to study the other languages of the respective countries. 

A look back at NMU...

Why did you chose to study Spanish?

Mostly because I enjoyed it and I was good at it, but also because I was interested in Hispanic culture and have had a good experience speaking it in the past.

When did you begin your language education?

Early in high school. I maintained that throughout college.

What do you remember about your NMU language classes?  What were they like?  Did you have a favorite instructor?

I remember the enthusiasm of the NMU faculty. I was also very impressed with their work outside of the university. Most of them worked on translation and participated in seminars and traveled abroad as well. They were also very encouraging and acknowledged good work. I’m speaking specifically of my experiences with Profe Joy and Profe Compton. Most of the classes were involved in happy and engaging conversation. The literature they chose was interesting and we learned a lot of important history and culture. Their energy tried to compensate for the sometimes lazy and tired college student and they succeeded. I honestly looked forward to every single of one my Spanish classes the majority of the time. 

How have the languages you studied at NMU enriched or enhanced your life, whether personally, academically, or professionally?

I’ve developed new friendships because of my ability to speak another language. What more could you ask for?

While still an NMU student, where did you find opportunities to speak the language you were learning outside of the classroom?

Usually in e-mails to faculty you could practice your Spanish. There were also a large number of study abroad possibilities available to me. I also helped translate for Central-American students that came to visit NMU in the past. I attended a Foreign Language conference. I got the chance to interview new Spanish department professors and have lunch with them.

While still an NMU student, did you study abroad? Where did you go, and why? How did the experience enhance your studies? Did it influence your future plans? 

I went to Guanajuato, Mexico in May 2009 with Profe Joy over the summer. Of course, it enhanced my studies. We took challenging classes all in Spanish at a small school that is no longer in existence. I lived with a fabulous host family and went with most of my friends from NMU. I still think about the trip a lot and on Facebook we still talk about all of the good times that we had. I met many friends down there. I remember just about the entire trip because I enjoyed it so much. I hope that everyone can get an opportunity like mine.

A memorable thing that happened to you when traveling abroad:

Eating tacos in the street with Profe Joy.

A favorite foreign language word or phrase (and what it means):

Trabajábamos (we were working, we worked…) i just like the sound of it.

Majors and year of graduation: Environmental Science, Spanish Secondary Ed. & Biology Secondary Ed. (Minor); 2012

Hometown: Cedar Springs, MI

Current city: Lima, Peru

Life in Peru

Where do you currently work and what do you do there?

I currently work at Colegio de la Inmaculada in Lima, Peru teaching science courses (biology & chemistry) to 7th and 8th graders.  It is a wonderful school that caught my attention because of its many environmental projects: water treatment, recycling program, biodigestor, apiary, fruit tree orchard, and animal refuge (pumas, jaguars, spectacled bears, emus, scarlet macaws, monkeys, and more!).

As a teacher here, I am in charge of developing and implementing all of the course material, classes and science labs for six different classes; two of 7th grade and four of 8th.  I have really enjoyed working here so far, as it has been a very supportive environment.  My position at the school, has provided me with great opportunities to develop both my teaching and language (Spanish) skills.  In addition, I have enjoyed accompanying my students to do volunteer projects, and I am going on a four-day trip with the7th graders in a few weeks!

Do you have any advice for students seeking employment abroad? (What was your experience like finding a job abroad?)

Volunteering in Peru
Above: Zach and a group of 8th graders working on a volunteer project in El Salvador, a school district in Lima, Peru.

I was actually pretty lucky in terms of finding a job abroad.  I found El Colegio de la Inmaculada through a program in the US called “Creating Ties”, and completed my student teaching here in March and April.  I was then unexpectedly offered a position at the school, and decided to come back to teach for the last half of the Peruvian school year (August to December).

Given my situation, I didn’t have to search for employment abroad directly (as it essentially found me :) ).  However, I would say that getting your foot in the door with a company or organization abroad through volunteer work, student teaching or another means is key.  Just having travel experience of any kind is a big plus. 

I would also say that it is important to explore the options.  It’s exciting to discover how many possibilities there are to work abroad.  I’m sure that with some research you will find a plethora of opportunities that could fit you well!  Just the fact that you are a native English speaker automatically makes you a valuable resource to many countries around the world.  However, finding the place that is right for you requires some investigation.  Lastly, don’t think of working abroad as something that isn’t feasible, or that’s out of your reach.  I think you will surprise yourself at the opportunities you will come across if you are open to change, willing to learn, and ready for a little adventure.

A look back at NMU...

Languages studied at NMU: Spanish

Why did you choose to study Spanish?

When I was in the 8th grade my family had an exchange student, Carles, from Barcelona, Spain.  We became good friends, and after Carles returned to Spain we kept in touch.  Over the next seven years I went to stay with his family in Barcelona numerous times, and he returned to visit us in Michigan.  We still keep in touch to this day.  Getting to know Carles and his family, really inspired me to pursue Spanish and to learn the language well.

When did you begin your language education?

I had my first Spanish class in the 6th grade.  I distinctly remember wondering why Spanish speakers needed four ways to say “the” instead of one!

What do you remember about your NMU language classes? What were they like? Did you have a favorite instructor?

I had very positive experiences in all of my language classes at NMU.  I was lucky, because I really got along well with, and enjoyed all of my professors.  I was also fortunate to work with professors on projects outside of my courses.  For example, I worked with Dr. Ulland as she was the advisor to the Spanish Club while I was president, I played Cuban songs with Dr. Orf at the UNITED Conference and went with Dr. Compton down to Mexico City for ten days to photograph plays. 

2011 UNITED Conference


Above: Professor Orf and Zach Bartel perform "Music from the Spanish-speaking World" at the 2011 UNITED Conference

I would have to say that inside the ‘classroom’ Dr. Joy was my favorite professor.  He was always extremely enthusiastic, positive and engaging.

Overall, my favorite professor was Dr. Compton.  I got to know him quite well and always enjoyed working with him both inside and outside of the classroom.  I had him as a professor both in Spanish and Education courses, and I always enjoyed his calm, but insightful teaching style.  Dr. Compton works extremely hard to bring great opportunities to the students at NMU.

A funny memory from one of your NMU language classes:

I remember helping out with Hispanolandia and watching the students who were put in “jail” for speaking in English.  It was hilarious.  We were all dressed like ridiculous police officers and we’d make a really big deal about anyone who dared to speak in English.  We took to them to the “jail” where there was a guitar for some reason.  One of my classmates started playing the guitar and the students had to sing along to get out!

While still an NMU student, where did you find opportunities to speak the language you were learning outside of the classroom?

While a student at NMU I was quite involved in the Spanish Club and was even the President for a few years.  So, Spanish chats at local restaurants were always a great way to practice my Spanish in a more casual setting.  I would also chat with Spanish-speaking friends online and practice with exchange students on campus.

How have the languages you studied at NMU enriched or enhanced your life, whether personally, academically, or professionally?

Languages have come to be a huge part of my life.  They have always intrigued me and they have enriched my life by opening doorways into other cultures.  The Spanish language especially has challenged me, humbled me (I’ve made a lot of mistakes!), and allowed me to connect to amazing people and places across the globe.  Now Spanish is an essential part of my professional life while working in Peru. 

I have also briefly studied French and Mandarin Chinese.  I would love to become fluent in French, and am currently using Rosetta Stone in an attempt to move towards that goal!

While still an NMU student, did you study abroad? Where did you go, and why? How did the experience enhance your studies? Did it influence your future plans? 

I studied abroad in San José, Costa Rica for the 2009 winter semester.   Studying abroad was something that I had wanted to do from the beginning.  I am always excited to see a new part of the word and to get to know a new culture.   I also saw studying abroad as an essential part of my language education.

The experience was fantastic, and I was lucky to have time to see many of the natural wonders scattered across Costa Rica’s beautiful countryside. 

Studying abroad definitely improved my Spanish, and served as my introduction to Latin America.  It reaffirmed my sense of wanderlust and curiosity, as well as boosted my sense of confidence.  I would say that it makes sense to say that studying abroad helped to direct me to further travels and my current job in South America.

While still an NMU student, did you student teach abroad? Where? Why did you choose that country? How did the experience enhance your studies? Did it influence your future plans?   

I did student teach abroad.  I taught Spanish in Michigan at Rockford Senior High School for seven weeks and then flew to Lima, Peru to finish the last eight weeks teaching science here.

I had been researching opportunities in Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, because I wanted to get to know South America and those were the Spanish-speaking countries that interested me the most.  I ended up in Peru because of the great opportunities that presented themselves through the program Creating Ties.

This experience greatly enhanced my studies by giving me valuable bilingual experience teaching abroad.  It also directly influenced my future plans as I was subsequently offered a full-time teaching position!

A memorable thing that happened to you when traveling abroad:

Climbing the tallest mountain in Costa Rica -  Feeling the cold bite of early morning for the first time in months, and sitting atop a wind-whipped peak with three friends watching the sun rise in brilliant crisp colors from the jagged horizon.

A favorite foreign language word or phrase (and what it means):

Spanish French

“¡El sol no sale para mirarte!” 
“The sun doesn’t rise just to look at you.”

(For those people that think the world revolves around them!  I think it’s a creative way to put it :) )

“Pouvez-vous me dire où se trouve la gare?”  

“Can you tell me where the train station is located?”

(I just like the way it sounds.)