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Germany native gets second chance at higher education
May 30, 2013
Nadine Evans of Rumford remembers the day she was told she could not attend school anymore. A native of Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany, Evans was beholden to the rules of the German education system: College is nearly free but not everyone gets to go.
Evans needed a recommendation from her teachers if she wanted to go on to college but, like many German youths, she was recommended for trade school instead.
“I remember that day exactly,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it was over. I wanted to keep going.”
Evans was sad to see some of her classmates going on to earn a higher education while she went to work at a motor vehicle appraising service. In the meantime, she married an American military serviceman stationed in Germany and followed him to Italy for his next assignment. Her marriage eventually took her to the United States, where she was able to get a second chance at going to college.
Evans’ ex-husband – they divorced in 2011 – is from Rhode Island and she followed him here when his military service ended.
“I had never heard of Rhode Island before we met,” Evans said.
When her husband started going to college, he encouraged Evans to do the same. Feeling shy and unsure of herself, she enrolled in a single course at the Community College of Rhode Island in a subject she felt safe with: German.
“I thought that was a safe idea,” Evans said. “I thought, ‘This is my own language so nothing could go wrong.’”
Fortunately, Professor Carol Panaccione, who became an important guide to Evans during her academic career, taught this class.
“I enrolled in her German class at first because I was afraid to take any other class, but when she found out I’m German she said that was a waste,” Evans remembers. “She was very encouraging and she convinced me to switch to a French class and an introductory English class.”
Although this turned out to be Evans’ only foray into learning French, the class gave her a lot of confidence and allowed her to meet one of her closest American friends.
“The whole system here is completely different,” Evans said. “Everyone here is very supportive of me and it wasn’t like that [in Germany].”
Evans decided to take more classes even though she was working full time. Unfortunately, a serious car accident at the beginning of 2009 caused her to miss several months of school. She was pregnant at the time and, after her daughter was born, Evans devoted herself to her care and missed still more time in the classroom.
She was ready to go back by the Fall 2010 semester. “After I had my daughter I just decided to take more classes,” she said. “I wasn’t getting any younger and I knew I needed to get college done.”
Good grades in her first semester back encouraged Evans to redouble her efforts. “As soon as I saw A’s, that was it; it was like an addiction,” she said. “I wanted to keep going. I needed more A’s.”
Now a single mother, Evans was working full time at a call center while maintaining a heavy course load. Something had to give and she decided to reduce her hours at work.
“I decided that even if I have to suffer financially a bit, I have to focus on my daughter and school,” she said.
The 27-year-old volunteers at an animal hospital and was considering veterinary science as a career. However, an introductory geology course with Professor Karen Kortz changed her mind.
Evans, a General Studies major who is graduating with a 3.81 GPA, will transfer to the University of Rhode Island this fall to work on a bachelor’s degree in geology. Her goal is to help mining companies search for oil, metals and other Earth resources or to work as an environmental geologist.
“I’ve always liked science and I just became really interested [in geology],” Evans said.
While she is excited for URI, Evans said she will miss the community college.
“I love that I can go somewhere and know exactly who to talk to,” she said about the school. “It feels like home.”