Where I Lead: In the Classroom and Overseas


Melissa Silva, ’19, graduated from UNG with a degree in modern languages with a concentration in Spanish language and literature in August and is spending an academic year as an English Teaching Assistant in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Gainesville, Georgia, resident earned that job by winning a scholarship from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It was the second prestigious nationally competitive scholarship Silva won. Earlier, she received a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which funded her study abroad to Spain in the summer.

What did you learn while teaching in Spain?

Since I am from Mexico, I was able to learn about our cultural similarities and differences. Spain is known for its flamenco dancing and bull fighting. Mexico has a lot of bull fighting rings and we love to dance. One of the differences can be seen in the cathedrals in each country. In Mexico, the cathedrals have vibrant colors. The Spanish cathedrals were influenced by the Roman architectural and Baroque style.

What are you looking forward to most about teaching in the Kyrgyz Republic?

I’m looking forward interacting with the students. I want to do more than teach them the nouns and verbs and the grammar of English. I want to talk to them and ask them, “What is your life like here and what do you do?”

How has winning two nationally competitive scholarships affected your future?

It was a huge accomplishment! I was taking six classes and working three jobs: as a paraprofessional at South Hall Middle School, as a foreign language lab consultant for Spanish, and as a cashier at Office Max. I worked 40-plus hours a week and still had to attend class, study, complete assignments, and meet with Dr. Anastasia Lin (assistant vice president of research and engagement and assistant dean of student research and scholarship at UNG) about my essays. Given all of that, it was truly a blessing that I was able to win not only one but two nationally competitive scholarships.

What made you decide to apply for the scholarships?

I was sitting in one of my Spanish classes and my professor told us that a degree alone could not secure us a job. And I thought, “What?” He said we needed to do undergraduate research or study abroad—something that makes us stand out from the crowd. That is when it hit me that I needed to try.

What is your plan after you return?

I was enrolled in the joint UNG, Hall County Realizing Inspiring and Successful Educators program. Through it, Hall County Schools paid for my tuition while I worked as a paraprofessional in a middle school. Now that I’ve graduated, I have been offered a position at a middle school. I plan to come back and teach there once I earn my teaching certification.

What made you want to be a middle school teacher?

Teaching is the profession that runs on my mom’s side of the family. My mom was a kindergarten teaching assistant in Mexico, and my cousin is a middle school teacher. I remember going into his class when I was little and watching him with awe, and I thought, “This is what I want to do.”