The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Natercia Bicalho

Natercia Bicalho '22

Natercia Bicalho is a senior Biology and Spanish double major on the pre-med track. She is also working on a Spanish and Health certificate and a Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies certificate.

“I am a native Portuguese speaker and lived in Brazil from ages 2-14. In high school I took Spanish classes and learned a lot of Spanish from friends. I started my college education with a biology major in the premed track. I started working as an EMT in the Springfield area and quickly realized that there was a lack of healthcare professionals who could speak another language besides English.”

Prior to college, Natercia spoke Portuguese growing up in Brazil and learned Spanish through her social circles and high school courses. When she began her studies at UMass Amherst as a biology major and worked as an EMT, she found her language skills to be extremely useful. She was intrigued when she realized that as one of the very few staff that could speak Spanish to any degree, she frequently spoke Spanish to patients at work. There were numerous situations where being able to speak the same language as her patient was crucial for delivering the best care possible. This sparked an interest in Natercia to be an advocate for the latino community, inspiring her to declare Spanish as a secondary major to further her skill set and amplify her cultural awareness.

“After I joined the Spanish and Portuguese department at UMass I quickly became involved in helping the latino community.”

On top of her secondary Spanish major, Naterica quickly became involved in the latino community as well. She worked as a call taker for the Pioneer Valley Workers Center hotline for Spanish speakers. The hotline supports the Spanish speaking community in western Massachusetts with a variety of needs from financial assistance, immigration resources, and translation services. Being a part of this initiative made Natercia more aware of the community’s needs and the ways that she can help.

Natercia also became a volunteer at the Jones Library as an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor. She works closely with a Portuguese speaking student from Cape Verde who is learning English, and helps this student study for the American citizenship exam.

“Being a part of the Spanish and Portuguese Studies program at UMass also allowed me to take Portuguese classes. This was a great way of learning more about my own culture. One class specifically, Brazil in Translation taught by professor Tal Goldfajn, sparked a new interest for me. In this class we worked on translating a famous Brazilian children’s literature book called “O Menino Maluquinho”, which became a project very dear to me.”

Prior to joining the Spanish and Portuguese studies program, Natercia had never worked on translations. With guidance from Professor Goldfajn, her class had the opportunity to present their English translation of Ziraldo’s classic Brazilian picture book “O Menino Maluquinho” to the public at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst. The rewarding experience inspired Naterica to work on translating another Brazilian children’s book on her own. Translation is a skill that she will keep working on in the future, and hopes to continue translating other works.

“After I graduate I am planning on becoming a certified medical interpreter and going to medical school. I will continue working with the latino community and working towards a solution to the issues language barriers generate in the healthcare field.”

Following graduation, Natercia plans to utilize her Spanish and Portuguese studies in the field of medicine. With a background in both humanities and sciences, she is prepared and motivated to address the language-related disparities in health care.

Profile by Maggie Hurley, publsihed on December 22, 2021