Category Archives: U.S. Fulbright

Playtime in Port Elizabeth

By Thalia Patrinos, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to South Africa

Thalia Patrinos-1

Thalia Patrinos, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to South Africa, with her incredibly entertaining Circle of Life team leaders, including Duncan, Mishka, Pieter, and Danny

By day, I am a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at Paterson High School in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

By night, I am a hula hoop teacher, circus performer, and fire dancer.

My hobbies may seem eccentric, but they offer opportunities for endless exploration, healthy exercise, and incredible cultural connections with students and audience members.

I began the journey into circus arts during my first year of college six years ago, and I have never looked back. My side career in the teaching and performance of fire and flow arts have taken me to festivals in Hungary, theaters in New York City, and classrooms here in South Africa.

We all need a little bit of playtime in our lives, whether we are children or adults. We need to be encouraged to have fun, let loose, and get lost in something, and all it takes is something as simple as a hula hoop to get us there sometimes.

Conversations on Tolerance and Equality: Living and Learning in Tajikistan

Chane Corp, 2014-2015, Fulbright ETA to Tajikistan

Chane Corp, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Tajikistan, celebrating World Earth Day by volunteering in Khorog City Park with students from various students from different American Corners’ clubs.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I knew there would be stigma surrounding this group in Tajikistan. While on my 10-month grant, I wanted nothing more than to be a personal advocate for tolerance; however, while studying and teaching in Kyrgyzstan, I developed an appreciation for keeping this personal information private. At various times, I have been told that this sort of discretion is not being true to who I am – but I disagree. Immersing yourself in another culture necessitates a sincere respect for local norms and opinions; being a successful cultural ambassador means finding the common ground that will allow you to be a productive, valued, member of your host community. Being a Fulbright grantee means you represent more than your own opinion; it means you are larger than your own passions.

When discussing sensitive issues abroad, my focus was always on the singular issue of tolerance. I sought to have difficult conversations with my students – ones that challenged not only their views, but also my own. When the racially charged unrest in Ferguson, Missouri hit its peak in November, 2014, the Russian news media (which is by far better funded and more chic than local Tajik outlets) devoted significant resources to covering the tension. Every night, nightly news would show dramatic footage of rioting and more than a few of my students genuinely believed that America, as a country, was on the verge of collapse. As dramatized as the Russian version of events were, this depiction offered a valuable opportunity for a frank and honest discussion about social issues in America and, indeed, around the world.

Being There: A Conversation on Collaboration in Barbados

By Katherine Cloutier, 2012-2013, and Matt Saleh, 2015-2016, Barbados

Katherine Cloutier is a 2012-2013 Fulbright-mtvU alumna, currently finishing her PhD in ecological-community psychology. Her Fulbright-mtvU grant was a participatory research project that was done in collaboration with a sexual health education program and secondary school students.

Matt Saleh is a 2015-2016 Fulbright U.S. Student in Barbados whose research focuses on collaboration and service coordination among community service providers, government agencies, and secondary schools in school-to-work transition for youth with disabilities.

After learning of the overlap between our two Fulbright projects and experiences in Barbados, we decided to sit down and try to put some of the commonalities into words for the benefit of future Fulbright Students. On the shores of Accra Beach over refreshments at the Tiki Bar, we quickly got to work. 

Katherine Cloutier

Katherine with Lisa Thompson from PEPFAR (left); Katherine Cloutier, 2012-2013, Barbados, with previous U.S. Ambassador Larry Palmer; and dance4life partners Maisha Hutton, Leila Raphael, and Shakira Emtage-Cave (middle to right) at the 2012 World AIDS Day Event where the participatory action research project was presented by the secondary school students.

Katherine Cloutier: I came to Barbados through a series of planned accidents, I suppose. I remember walking into the office of the Fulbright Program Adviser at Michigan State University, my alma mater, and telling him, “I’m going to get that scholarship; it’s just a matter of when.” The next thing I knew, I was walking off a plane in Barbados on a humid September day in 2012, about to begin my year as a Fulbright-mtvU grantee. Two individuals from my host community partner, dance4life (a sexual health education and youth empowerment program), were waiting for me at the airport. I had never been to the Caribbean before, let alone this particular rock, but I felt so welcomed by these two. Here I am, years later, and I am back in Barbados, my second home.

Engineering a New Mindset across the Pond

By Emmanuel Johnson, 2013-2014, United Kingdom

Emmanuel Johnson

Emmanuel Johnson, 2013-2014, United Kingdom, working in the lab

On September 10, 2013, I arrived in London, England at the King’s Cross tube station. As I left the station, I was hit by a cold breeze which quickly reminded me that my initial assumption about the weather in England was wrong.

I arrived in Birmingham, England a week later to begin my master’s program in robotics on a Fulbright grant. From day one, I was welcomed by students from various cultures. In the States, I was accustomed to meeting students from around the country, but in Birmingham, I met students from countries around the world – a few I knew nothing about. The exposure to different cultures challenged my views daily. I questioned my thoughts on dress, ideals, biases and ways of living. In the United Kingdom, the weather, fashion, food and dialect were different. I was naïve to think that because the British spoke English, the cultural elements wouldn’t be much different than those in the United States. I was constantly reminded of the difference between the two countries: when I rode the lift (British word for elevator), rode the tube (London subway) and had to get a jumper (British word for sweater) to keep warm.

The main focus of my Fulbright grant was to pursue a master’s in robotics and conduct research in human robot interaction. My research explored ways in which a robot can use gestures to provide feedback to a student during a learning activity.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

By Kara Witherill, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Germany and Reach the World Traveler

Kara Witherill-1

Kara Witherill, 2015-2016, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Germany and Reach the World Traveler

In partnership with Reach the World (RTW), the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is publishing a series of articles written by Fulbright English Teaching Assistants participating in Reach the World’s Traveler correspondents program, which through its interactive website, enriches the curriculum of elementary and secondary classrooms (primarily located in New York City but also nationwide) by connecting them to the experiences of volunteer Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) and other world travelers who are currently studying and living abroad. 

One thing that never changes, no matter where you are in the world, is how fast time goes by. It was almost exactly a year ago that I found out I had won a Fulbright U.S. Student grant and would be spending this year in Germany teaching English. Now, as I look forward, it’s hard to believe I only have four more months left in Germany and that this is my last journal entry for Reach the World. However, thinking about the passage of time brings me to one of the most important pieces of advice I can give to someone planning on pursuing a Fulbright grant: take it one day at a time.

I cannot emphasize this point enough. When I realized I was going to be leaving behind everything I knew and embarking on this journey in a foreign country, I was very excited, but I was also terrified. Thinking about moving to a foreign country for a year, especially one that speaks a different language is scary. When you think about the fact that you won’t see your friends or family for months, it can be sad. When you think about trying to find a place to live, navigating a new lifestyle and making new friends, it can be daunting. However, I’ve learned that instead of thinking about all those things at once and totally freaking myself out, I need to think about these things one day at a time.