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September 3, 2013
Freshman Facts: Melissa Melendez, Russian traveler

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When Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, joined the Navy, she initially intended to become a nurse. But her superiors told her they had plenty of medical personnel and issued her a language aptitude test to gauge her potential as a translator. Melendez scored well and was given her pick of languages. She chose Russian, explaining that it offered the best chance to see the world.

"They gave me the list of languages, some of which I'd never heard of, and I said, 'Well, where can I go? Where can I be stationed with this language?' I really just wanted to know where could I travel the most," Melendez said.

With Russian at her disposal, Melendez traveled to eight different countries (she passed on a chance to spend a year in Turkey because the rules about what clothes she could wear seemed too restrictive).

She later found a way to monetize translation skills of a different sort: after she finished serving, she started a transcription business that deciphered speeches by military officials, converting a soup of acronyms and terms of art into layman's English.

The 2013-2014 Legislature features the largest freshman class in decades. In this recurring series, Insider Edition helps get you acquainted with the influx of newcomers.

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