I am from an Arab gulf country called Oman and I spent nine months at Michigan State University as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) teaching Arabic. Michigan was one of the most magnificent places I have ever lived in. Many might know something about my culture having to do with oil and camels. As a Fulbright FLTA, my role was to help educate people I met and worked with about Oman, a very exciting and challenging task.
Changing ideas and stereotypes about my culture was an important responsibility during my Fulbright FLTA grant, and did this by participating in open discussions and through language lessons, which I enjoyed a great deal. When I arrived, I initially went through a difficult time and had some tough decisions to make in order to pursue my grant. The media had given me an unclear message about the United States, but I was shocked by what I actually saw after I settled in. I experienced a completely different environment, culture and lifestyle than what I’d learned through Hollywood movies and the news. I traveled around the country and talked to many Americans in and outside of Michigan State University to develop a better understanding about their lives. I’ve since learned that there is a huge difference between the U.S. portrayed in television and movies, and the real America.
When I first arrived, I wasn’t so sure about my ability to teach Arabic because it was my first time teaching my own language, but my experience and background in teaching English as a second language helped me to do my best with my students. I like challenges because they push me towards excellence. The support I received from my supervisors was valuable and their guidance provided me with different, improved ways of teaching. After the first semester, I felt more confident in my abilities. I saw a noticeable change in my students’ speaking abilities and was proud of this accomplishment.
After being in the U.S., surrounded by smart people from all over the world at one of the best American universities, I grew personally and professionally. Because of the many interviews I gave about my language teaching experiences, and because of the language research I conducted, I am now more much more confident. My English language knowledge, teaching and skills have also improved. Because of my Fulbright FLTA grant, I am now able to share the knowledge and skills I gained in the U.S. with my colleagues at home in Oman. Fulbright taught me about the importance of languages in promoting a better understanding of humanity, and because of that, I want to continue studying languages in Oman -where five languages are spoken – in addition to Arabic. I feel strongly that it would be useful for the speakers of these languages to know the basics, and to know about the influence other languages have on our lives and ability to communicate with one another.