We are in the office Monday through Thursday mornings, working primarily with the business and online portions of NER. We’ve learned how to use a variety of different applications not taught in school, including WordPress, Submittable, Filemaker Pro, and Adobe InDesign. Natalie is a fan of WordPress, while Elana is an InDesign fan. Our projects have included creating pages and posts for the website, arranging in-office inventory, and helping to find citations for a translated essay. On Fridays, we switch it up and meet with Jennifer Bates for a lovely one-and-a-half-ish hour meeting during which we discuss ten different fiction submissions we’ve read for that week. Natalie likes to do her weekly reading on Proctor Terrace listening to Language School students pass by. Elana does hers in the giant-sized yellow Adirondack chair overlooking the falls along Otter Creek.
Natalie Figueroa grew up in Norfolk, Massachusetts. She is a rising junior at Middlebury College, where she is an International and Global Studies major focusing in Latin America. Elana sat down with her for an informative chat.
Elana Schrager: Hey Natalie! First of all: why Midd?
Natalie Figueroa: A family friend recommended that I look into this small liberal arts college instead of the huge public universities that many of my high school classmates leaned towards. Middlebury is well known in international studies and languages (my areas of interest), and I got on campus and immediately felt like I was home.
ES: Tell us about your pre-Middlebury years. Who was your most formative teacher in high school?
NF: Definitely my junior year English teacher, Mr. Sean Skenyon. I credit all of my writing skills and my love of literature to him.
ES: Now that you’re in college, which professor inspires you?
NF: It’s a list really: Professors Daniel Brayton, Fernando Rocha and Gloria Estela González Zenteno. Each one of them have supported me in pushing the boundaries to become the writer I am today.
ES: Why did you choose to major in International and Global Studies?
NF: I grew up in a bilingual household with a family of Guatemalan immigrants, and I wanted to dive deeper into my Latin American roots.
ES: You’re going international for real next year. Where are you planning on studying abroad?
NF: I’m wicked excited to study abroad in the spring of 2017 in Santiago, Chile at Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Chile)!
ES: What keeps you busy outside of academics during the year?
NF: I really love diving into the many organizations that Middlebury has to offer. I work in the admissions office as an office assistant and Discover Middlebury intern, am a board member of TEDxMiddlebury, and also co-editor-in-chief of Translingual Magazine, Middlebury’s only multi-lingual magazine.
ES: (Laughs.) You gotta love the Midd lit mag scene! What’s your favorite part of Translingual?
NF: The beauty of Translingual comes from the many different submissions we receive every semester; whether they be essays, short stories, poems, songs, or artwork, it’s beautiful to see exactly how people interpret multilingualism through art.
ES: And what else are you doing this summer, beyond the sky-lit offices of NER?
NF: Alongside NER, I’m working as a summer intern at the admissions office. I’m that person you see giving tours out in 90 degree weather!
ES: Chill. Why NER?
NF: I heard about their relationship to the college through the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference that I attended in the summer of 2015. Roughly a year later, they reached out to Translingual in the spring of 2016 and asked us to participate in NER Out Loud, where we read aloud pieces from our magazine in Japanese, Spanish, and Maori and their English counterparts. I loved all the work they did and knew I wanted to pursue my passion of literature and foreign languages through NER.
ES: What’s your favorite book?
NF: I have two! What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, by Raymond Carver, and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez.
ES: What’re you reading now, beyond our weekly allotment of stories?
NF: I’m currently reading The Woman I Kept to Myself, by Julia Alvarez, a beautiful collection of poems on her bilingual heritage between the United States and the Dominican Republic.
ES: Leave us with a fun fact, Natalie.
NF: (Laughs.) Well, I’ll leave you with two—a literary one and a random one. Number one: I have had six chances to meet and talk to Julia Alvarez (my favorite author), and I have botched every single one of them because I was too nervous and starstruck. And number two: I had never eaten chili until I attended the annual Middlebury Chili Festival my freshman year. (Elana’s eyes widen.) I know, right? I just didn’t grow up eating it.
Elana Schrager is from the DC metro area. She is a rising senior at Middlebury College, where she is a joint History/English and American Literatures major. Natalie and she traded chairs, and Natalie asked her some questions.
NF: Sup, Elana? Tell us: where are you from, exactly?
ES: Rockville, Maryland. Sometimes I say Bethesda, Maryland. Same zip code, different names.
NF: How’d you get to Midd?
ES: I applied to twelve schools in five days and Midd was one of them. (Elana grins and whispers, “I was not organized about my college search process.”)
NF: Who are your favorites in the ENAM [English and American Literatures] department?
ES: Bret Millier, my ENAM advisor, is my fav. I also took a workshop with Rob Cohen that rocked. Also, I love Antonia Losano—I still use my notes from her theory class on the reg. I’ll also note that Amy Morsman is my history advisor, and she’s a total rock-star. (In a professorial way, of course.)
NF: You recently returned from a semester abroad, right?
ES: Yep! I spent my spring semester at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, studying English literature and historiography.
NF: How are you feeling now that you’re back and heading toward your senior year?
ES: Having been away, I am extremely grateful to have another year at Middlebury. I’m also so happy to have the summer here as well.
NF: What else do you do on campus during the year?
ES: Over my three years at Midd, I have done poster and sticker designs for Eat Real and Weybridge House, served as Meal Chair for Hillel, been a first year mentor, worked as a peer writing tutor, run a weekly writing workshop for students, and published a “zine” that I founded called Frame.
NF: How did you found Frame?
ES: I think that student magazines should be supportive communities for writers to improve their writing. I wanted Frame to not have an editorial board, and for its content to directly come from workshop. This way students who are revising their writing also get to see it in print. I love seeing how pieces change over the course of workshop, but my favorite part is designing the print copy of the zine. I change the design to something different every semester.
NF: So what brought you to NER?
ES: #dreams, right? But seriously, I’ve known a few interns in the past, and they’ve all been people who I deeply respect, both academically and personally. I’ve known that I wanted to try and get this internship since my sophomore year. I spend a lot of time during the year working with my peers on the process that is the transfer of thoughts to words, and so I’ve loved getting a peek at the editorial and production side of the professional writing process this summer. I’m also facing the excitingly blank slate that is post-graduation life, so I thought that getting a peek at the editorial world would guide me in making post-graduation plans.
NF: What’s your favorite book?
ES: I have a top five list, but I’ll pick a top three. Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann, is definitely number one. Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner. I just can’t not say A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. And The Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was deeply formative. Whoops. That’s five. Also Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson, haunts my brain sometimes.
NF: What else are you reading this summer?
ES: I’m starting to do reading and research for my senior thesis, which is actually quite interesting. But on the fiction side of things, I’m finally taking on the classic English major project that is reading Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I have 800 pages left. It’s gonna happen. I’m also reading The Rainbow, by D.H. Lawrence. And I found a copy of The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Koningsburg, in Munroe Street Books (the second-hand bookstore off Route 7) so I’m re-reading that, too.
NF: What’s your favorite part of doing our weekly reading with Jennifer?
ES: I’ve gained an even deeper appreciate for the magic that happens when a piece jumps from being just a collection of words that tells a story to being a thing that is bigger than itself. I don’t know how it happens, but I’m at once jealous and awestruck of those who can do so.
NF: Any parting facts about you?
ES: Carolyn was lovely and let me take a week off recently so that I could lead a backpacking trip in Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, for my old camp. I’m also doing office work for Bread Loaf and workings a server at American Flatbread this summer. When I’m not reading or working, you can probably find me listening to the NPR Politics podcast.