Hi, my name is Maria and I am the founder of SPEAK East Bay! I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but I grew up in California in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I have always felt like I was straddling two cultures. I wanted to stay connected to my roots, but also feel comfortable in my new culture. I’ve also always liked learning languages, and using them to talk to people in the language they felt most comfortable.
In high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua. There I was able to use the little Spanish I knew. This helped me to connect with the people I met. This experience opened my eyes to the community nature of language. It allowed me to experience what it was like to be in a new place where I was not fully confident in my speaking skills.
From then on, I have had many similar experiences, which are both humbling and inspiring.
When I found out about SPEAK, I was excited to hear about the goals of social inclusion and breaking down language barriers, because I have been in the position of the newcomer, and know how difficult it can be to put yourself out there in a new city, country, or even in a new group.
I know how difficult it can be to put yourself out there in a new city, country, or even in a new group.
I am currently a student at the University of California in Berkeley studying Cognitive Science and Portuguese. Both align well with my interest in connecting people and furthering my own language knowledge base. Through SPEAK I want to connect newcomers and locals using language as an excuse to form meaningful relationships between people.