Clarkie of the Week: Natalie Zaba

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Clarkie of the Week: Natalie Zaba

Image courtesy of Penelope Kogan

Image courtesy of Penelope Kogan

Image courtesy of Penelope Kogan

Image courtesy of Penelope Kogan

Luis Santos, News Editor

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Natalie Zaba (‘22) showcases her dance skills in Variant Dance Troupe, has volunteered as a Peer Advisor, and is a mentor for new students. She is also fluent in three languages and her ambitious spirit will make you want to join every club at Clark! Multi-talented Zaba sat down with The Scarlet to talk about her experiences so far and what her future holds.

 

Scarlet: Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Natalie: I am a sophomore. I am a biology major with a Spanish minor. And I am thinking of adding a concentration—not 100 percent yet [laughs]. I am in Variant Dance Troupe. It’s a non-audition group on campus and anyone can join. We are accepting of everyone! Some people do have dance experience and some don’t. It’s really fun to see and try out what you can do [smiles]. No one is judgemental or anything. It’s a great way to build stage confidence as well. Our show is the first and second week of November. Everyone should come!

Scarlet: Advertisement, okay! [both laugh].

Natalie: I am also in March for Our Lives, Women in STEM, and this past year I was a PA [Peer Advisor] which was really fun. So yeah.

Scarlet: I’m curious… how did you manage to learn multiple languages? Do you think it’s it a gift?

Natalie: I think it’s a gift. I’m Polish and my parents are from Poland. I grew up speaking Polish and I went to a Polish school my whole life so I learned how to read and write in Polish and learn about Polish history. I think it definitely helped me with my minor in Spanish and learning Spanish, it just came easier to me than like some other peopleand the same with the accents… It’s easier for me. It’s important because I am really interested about learning other cultures and learning languages. And I wish when I was younger I took more languages just so I can know them. It’s just fun and interesting.

I am happy with my Spanish minor. I definitely want to be fluent by the end of all of it. I am planning to study abroad for Spanish next year.

Scarlet: What is home to you?

Natalie: Home to me is Braintree, Massachusetts. It’s like an hour away south of Boston. I’ve been living there for six years. And then prior to that, I lived in Long Island, New York for the rest of my life but that’s what I consider home now. 

Scarlet: Why Clark University? What made you choose Clark?

Natalie: Two reasons. I wanted to stay close to home but I also wanted to get away from going to a school that was “everyone is from Massachusetts.” The reason I was drawn to Clark is because I saw that it had a big percentage of students that were international and out-of-state students. And since I’m interested in learning about other cultures and how other people lived their lives, that’s why I was drawn. I didn’t want to be stuck with “oh hey, there’s this person that lives 10 minutes away back at home.” So it was a good balance for me getting to know people that were international and out-of-state and close enough for me to go home if I missed my family. 

And also because when I came to Clark for an Open House, everyone I talked to was really friendly. I toured a lot schools and I just didn’t get that feel from them in where people were interested in what I had to say. Whereas when I came here, I was just sitting in the AC [Academic Commons] and someone came up to me and started talking to me about what I was interested in and any questions I had for them. It was very welcoming.

Scarlet: How would you describe your Clark experience so far? Has Clark lived up to your expectations?

Natalie: My experience [introspectively]… it definitely has lived up to my expectations. I would say since coming to Clark it has pushed me to come out of my shell. Especially this year, being a PA was out of my bubble. I never considered myself being a PA ever and before I came to college I was like “that is something I would never do.” And I loved it! Coming to Clark has definitely pushed me to get out of my boundaries and reach out to people when previously coming to college I was like “I can’t imagine myself doing that. It’s crazy!” It is definitely a good thing. I enjoyed it.

Scarlet: Do you think dancing and learning languages sets you apart… do you feel like it has made you grow as a person?

Natalie: Yes, definitely. Before coming to Clark I never danced before actually. It was a thing that…I told myself before coming to college to do something random, something that I have never done before. Dance was something that I always wanted to do. So I was like “I’m just gonna try it and see how it goes” [laughs]. And I love it! I met a lot of amazing people last year because of it. 

Definitely, the languages. Being able to take classes in the language department has connected me with other people that have similar interests where they were not like “I am studying Spanish for a Spanish major and education,” they are more like “I am interested about the culture.” So it’s definitely a great way to connect with people as well.

Scarlet: So, how would you rate your dancing skills on a scale from 1 to 10?

Natalie: I would say like a 7. I don’t know [both laugh].

 

Scarlet: Not bad. That’s pretty good. I have zero dance experience.

Natalie: For a person with no experience I would say it’s okay [laughs].

Scarlet: So… How are you involved with the Worcester community? Is there a connection there?

Natalie: I’ve never been to Worcester before coming to Clark. Coming here was the first time I have ever been here. I know for my FYI (First Year Intensive) I took Challenge Convention Change Your World (course) and that really helped me learn about the Worcester community and the opportunities it offers. In this class we like took “a walking tour of Worcester” and we learned about the different resources it has for students at Clark and how involved Clarkies are with the Worcester community which I think it’s exciting.

I don’t want to say too much, but my friend and I are trying to start a club where students do get involved against anti-bullying within the Worcester Public Schools. But that is in the process of being created.

Scarlet: More advertisement! That’s good [both laugh]. What are some of your life plans after Clark?

Natalie: I am definitely going to graduate school. As of right now, I have my mind set on being a Genetic Counselor in the future. However, I am experimenting with that right now. I’m kind of looking at other things as well. A Genetic Counselor — for people that may not know — is someone that a patient may come talk to if they know they have a risk for a genetic disease that runs in their family. It’s primarily helpful when parents are trying to start families. When women are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, a Genetic Counselor can talk to them about the multiple possibilities: the chances of their child having a specific disease, treatments to help prevent this, and other options they could have.

Scarlet: That is very interesting. I didn’t know that was thing! [both laugh].

Natalie: Yeah. It’s a new rising field.

Scarlet: Cool. You are a dancer and multilingual, and not many people can say that. You are kind of a role model. How do you encourage others to aspire? 

Natalie: When I have conversations with people and different students on campus and they are like “I’m considering doing this” I’m like just do it and if you don’t at least you tried it and you know that it’s not for you. As a PA, I heard a bunch of first year students always be like, “I don’t know, I might do this…” and I’m like just “do it” and you’re gonna love it and you are going to meet so many great people. So definitely, a lot of encouragement. I would just tell people to go for it. If you are slightly considering something I feel like you should test it out before you deny it. 

Scarlet: A completely random question… if you were a food, which would you be and why? [both laugh].

Natalie: I would be a strawberry or raspberry because they’re my favorite food; they have a very bright color [laughs]. And they’re very sweet and I think I’m a sweet person. 

Scarlet: What’s a strange or fun fact about yourself that you would like to tell us?

Natalie: I don’t know if it’s a strange fun fact but… I used to do gymnastics when I was younger and played tennis and piano. That’s not strange… [laughs].

Scarlet: No… that just means you’re talented! A question related to this, what’s something people might not notice about you at first glance?

Natalie: Definitely that I am Polish and that I can speak another language. I feel like a lot of people don’t really know how interested I am in the cultural aspects of where they come from. I love traveling, I know a lot of people travel to go see pretty places but I actually love to travel and learn what people do in specific countries and what their cultures are. And if I had the opportunity to participate in it—which is why study abroad is a big thing for me and I always encourage it. I feel like if you don’t really know me, than I’m just another girl who likes traveling. 

I haven’t studied abroad yet, but my senior year of high school I did a family stay in Spain. So I lived with a host family for a few days and then the other half of the trip I toured which was really fun. That’s also a personal route, “I want to study abroad for Spanish again” and learn the language.

Scarlet: Is it part of your bucket list?

Natalie: Yes! [both laugh].

Scarlet: Any last words or words of encouragement for Clarkies?

Natalie: If you are considering doing a club or something I’d say go for it. Go to one meeting even if you don’t like it. I’ve done that many times and decided that this club is not for me. It’s definitely how you meet your close friends and the people you associate with and that’s how I met some of my closest friends just by going to a club. And then I found out that they were in the same major as me! So it really helps to get out there and meet people.