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Foreign Fulbright

One Connection at a Time: The Wisdom of the Universe in my Fulbright Experience

January 22, 2020

By Gloriana Amador Agüero, 2018 Fulbright Foreign Student, Costa Rica

At the Minnesota Historical Society. 2019.

For my first internship in the United States, I spent two months in green, friendly, Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m a Fulbrighter from Costa Rica, studying for an MS in Museums and Digital Culture (MDC) at Pratt Institute in New York City. Why would I want to go to the Midwest? The answer, it turns out, is slightly complicated.

Before Fulbright, I met the love of my life in Costa Rica: Alberto, who had moved from Costa Rica to the Twin Cities years before. During my first visits to Minnesota, we spent time visiting the lakes, parks, and great museums in the area, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). MIA is an audience-centered institution that uses innovative digital strategies and includes 90,000 pieces from around the world. During my Spring semester at Pratt, one of my assignments for my Museum Digital Strategy class was to interview a museum professional. I decided to reach out to none other than Douglas Hegley, Chief Digital Officer at MIA! During the phone interview, Douglas and I talked about our motivations, and I was amazed by his fascinating journey into the museum world and the interactive media programs and digital initiatives at MIA. The MDC Blog published the interview on Medium.

3rd Avenue Entrance Façade of the Minneapolis Institute of Art building. 2016.

Douglas Hegley presenting with Susan Wamsley, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, at the Digital Assets Management (DAM) 2019 DAMs and Cultural Heritage – A Professional Dialog, Photo: Gloriana Amador.

Following our conversation, Douglas presented at the Digital Asset Management (DAM) Conference in New York, where I was able to meet him in person. Over a cup of coffee, I discovered not just how outstanding he is as a museum professional, but how kind and generous, too. He shared his ideas and advice to develop my career. After this meeting, I thought, “This is the kind of professional I want to become.” Douglas’ kindness and helpfulness inspired me to also help others through professionalism, kindness, and generosity.

Shortly after our meeting, I received an e-mail with the subject line: “A connection.” To my surprise, Douglas connected me with Frances Lloyd-Baynes, Head of Collections Information Management at MIA, and a leading expert in the field. We connected and talked about MIA’s ongoing projects, and before I knew it, I found myself with an internship at an American art museum!

Frances Lloyd-Baynes, Head of Collections Information Management, and Gloriana Amador at the Media and Technology Division. 2019.

At MIA, I worked on information management in museums, using a database. The database is used to collect important information related to the artwork, artists, and exhibitions located at the museum, which can be shared with the public. One way museums can share this information is by connecting the internal database with their website, through an Application Programming Interface (API), which helps to deliver content to the Web. I researched and designed the integration of the museum’s collections database and the website through the MIA’s Application Programming Interface (API).

In order to accomplish this, I first trained in The Museum System (TMS), which is MIA’s internal database. Second, I studied the content of four exhibitions, their didactic panels, and related artwork. Third, our team created a model of links and relations within TMS, almost like building a search engine. And finally, with input from MIA’s Software Developer, we designed a road map of links and sequences to find an easy way to pull data for each exhibition in TMS. These types of projects are especially important in the museum world, as thanks to the integration of databases and websites through the API, people can interact with information and learn more about art.

This hands-on experience complemented my coursework and expanded my professional network in the art world. My experience illustrates some of the Fulbright Program’s core values: contributing to my field’s development, and encouraging me to build global networks and friendships. MIA, and the Midwest, opened its doors to me.

Installation views of the exhibition “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists.” Curated by Jill Ahlberg Yohe. Organized by Minneapolis Institute of Art. Presented by Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

“The Wisdom of the Universe,” a wonderful painting by Christi Belcourt, exhibited in “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists” at the MIA, reminds me of the importance of those connections. My journey started with a love story that allowed me to meet generous professionals along the way. The wisdom of the universe brought me to the Midwest with my boyfriend, then connected me to Douglas, and finally to Frances.

My advice for future Fulbrighters is to be open to expanding your connections with professionalism, kindness, and generosity. Don’t forget those relationships that have meant so much in your career. I am living one of Fulbright’s core values, “one connection at a time.”

FLTA Foreign Fulbright Reach the World

U.S. Classrooms Celebrate International Education Week with Fulbrighters

November 18, 2019

In celebration of International Education Week 2019, 10 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants will visit elementary, middle, and high schools in Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Michigan. The visits will take place from November 18 to 21, and are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), in partnership with Reach the World.

The Fulbrighters will share their home countries’ culture with students and describe their Fulbright experiences. The visits, with a diverse group of participants and classrooms, allow American students to build first-hand global knowledge, and help increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. The visits build on ECA and Reach the World’s virtual exchanges partnership, in which U.S. exchange students studying overseas through Fulbright and other ECA exchange programs “meet” students in American classrooms.

Follow our visits to U.S. classrooms this week by using and following #Fulbright on social media.

Meet the Fulbright participants:

 

El Housseine Abouazza
Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Morocco
Fayetteville State University

“My name’s Houcien Abouazza. I’m from Morocco, which means I’m African, and I’m 33 years old (my body insists that I look much younger, though!). I’ve been working as a high school English teacher for the past eight years. I enjoy my job immensely because I get the chance to work with thirsty young minds. I have a master’s in Translation Studies from Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco, and work as a translator between English and Arabic. I came to the United States in August 2019 on the Fulbright Foreign Student FLTA Program, and teach at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. My focus is building a bridge between Americans and Moroccans through teaching Arabic and showcasing Moroccan culture with all its varied facets. Not only that, but the Americans I have met have been nothing but helpful in introducing me into their own culture, which has made me more conscious of my own. Programs like Fulbright help prevent the rise of global illiteracy.”

 

Raju Ahmmed
Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Bangladesh
University of Michigan

“Hello, I am Raju. I am a lecturer in English at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University in Bangladesh, where I teach communicative English courses to undergraduate students. My research interest is in developing second language skills, English for Specific Purpose (ESP) and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TESOL). I graduated from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. Presently I work as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at the University of Michigan, where I teach Bengali in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. I also assist in a seventh grade English class once a week at Scarlett Middle School. In my free time, I love cooking, meeting new people, and sharing my culture.”

 

Sarwa Azeez
Fulbright Foreign Student Program – MA Creative Writing, from Iraq
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Hi, I am Sarwa Azeez. I have completed a master’s in English Literature at Leicester University in the UK. My hometown is called Soran, which is a stunning mountainous town located in Iraqi Kurdistan. I have contributed to humanitarian work with refugee girls and children in my region. My main interests are reading and writing, especially writing poetry. I have published a poetry pamphlet called Remote. As a Fulbrighter, I am studying for my second master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.”

 

Huda Hosson
Fulbright Foreign Student Program – MS in Electrical Engineering, from Libya
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“My name is Huda, and my mission in life is to bring positive change to the world and to help humanity evolve and grow. I chose science and engineering to be my keys to doing so. I am currently researching different implementations of solar power systems to help lead the world to sustainability. I have experience as a primary school teacher and as a lab supervisor in college. I’ve been involved with different civil society organizations to help promote peace, empower women, and encourage scientific work. I enjoyed spending the last year studying in Italy and I feel very fortunate to be studying here in the United States now. Oh, I am very passionate about yoga, too!”

 

Alexandre Lopes Silva
Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Brazil
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Hi, I’m Alexandre. I worked as an English as a Foreign Language teacher in Brazil, and am currently a Portuguese teacher and the mediator of the Portuguese Club at UNL. I am also taking graduate-level courses on methodology and applied linguistics. I am very interested in second language acquisition, and gender and sexuality studies. My hobbies include ballet, studying foreign languages, and cinema.”

 

Meltem Ozgul
Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Turkey
Michigan State University

“Hi, I am Meltem. I am an English teacher at a secondary school in İstanbul. I studied English Language Teaching at Yeditepe University in İstanbul, and have worked with different levels of language learners while teaching English for four years. Last year, I got my certificate in Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language. Currently, I am a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at Michigan State University. Here, I teach Turkish to college students and attend cultural events to promote Turkish culture in America.”

 

Gulchekhra Rakhimova
Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Uzbekistan
Michigan State University

“Hello! I am Gulchekhra Rakhimova from Uzbekistan. I am a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant in Uzbek language at Michigan State University. I have earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Linguistics and Philology at Uzbekistan State World Language University. I received my Professional Development in Teaching English as a Second Language Certificate from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. As a cultural ambassador, I’ve joined the Community Volunteering International Program (CVIP), and have been doing cultural presentations and events to present my culture and my country.”

 

Olajide Salawu
Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Nigeria
Fayetteville State University

“Enle o, I am Olajide Salawu. I work as a research assistant at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, from where I also earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Literary Studies. As a cultural ambassador, I am currently a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at Fayetteville State University, where I have held different workshops on Yoruba language and culture. Next spring, I will teach first-year students in an “Introduction to Yoruba Language” course. In my spare time, I like to watch movies and write poetry. My work can be found in Transition, Rattle, Salt Hill Journal, New Orleans Review, African Poetry Book Fund and elsewhere.”

 

Mariia Velichko
Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Russia
Michigan State University

“Hello, I am Maria! I graduated from Magnitogorsk State University, where I majored in Linguistics, Translation and Interpretation, and worked as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Translation and Interpretation. My main professional interests are methods of teaching English and Russian, all kinds of translation and interpretation, and cross-cultural communication. I currently assist students in the “Russian 420” course at Michigan State University, host a Russian Club, and organize and take part in cultural outreach events to promote Russian culture in America. I am interested in fashion history, art, photography, and am always looking for things that can inspire me.”

 

Chiu-Li Wu
Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant – Taiwan people
University of Kentucky

“Hello, I’m Chiu-Li Wu, but most of my friends just call me Sherry! I love sharing Chinese culture, and my main professional interests are psychology, school counseling, special education, and teaching English and Chinese as a foreign language. I also like traveling and working as a volunteer in the community. I’m currently a teaching assistant of “Chinese 101” at the University of Kentucky and organize some cultural events. I enjoy helping my students experience the art of Chinese characters, Chinese woodblock painting, calligraphy, brush painting, paper cutting, pop songs, and Chinese cuisine.”

FLTA Foreign Fulbright

Infectious Enthusiasm: How My Fulbright Year Renewed My Love For Teaching

October 22, 2019
By Ángela Otero del Castillo, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Spain

I’m on a plane. Destination: Bangkok. I’m moving to Thailand to teach Spanish at Chulalongkorn University, the most prestigious university in the country, as part of an international teaching program funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education. As I float above the clouds, I can’t help but think back to my time with the Fulbright Program and feel a sense of profound gratitude. The Fulbright Program, after all, is the reason why I’m on this plane. That’s because the year I spent as a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) at the University of Arkansas managed to do what I thought impossible: re-kindle my passion for teaching.

 

Let’s back up a little. In 2015, I moved to Scotland, where I taught Spanish at the University of Glasgow for two years. I loved teaching, but I wasn’t in the right mindset, and each day seemed harder to finish. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. So I made a decision: I returned to Spain to find something else to do. Moving back home after two years of independence proved to be hard, but I applied for a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship. I had no expectations of getting it, but—thank the universe—I did!

 

In August 2018, I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to begin my time as an FLTA. At first, I found the educational system a bit challenging to adapt to for several reasons. To start with, teaching assistants in my home country of Spain typically take on more of an observing and learning role, teaching with the support of the lead teacher for practice. I was surprised to find that here, teaching assistants direct language instruction. Soon, though, I allowed myself to take control of my classes and had lots of fun with my students. I taught two Intermediate Spanish II groups per semester, with around 10-15 students per group.

 

My first shock was finding out I would teach at 7:30 in the morning! Classes in Spain and in other countries, such as Scotland, where I had worked before, start at 9:00 A.M. at the earliest! I soon discovered, however, that most of the students really wanted to be there – even at that early hour. My students were receptive, active, funny—everything a teacher could ask for. I’m not one to stick to dry lessons that could lead to a group full of sleeping students, so I started creating my own materials while still following the official syllabus. I loved spending hours designing posters and making up games. I loved practicing with my students, and the best part was that they seemed to love it, too.

Colorful, eye-catching graphics encourage foreign language students to engage with the material

My enthusiasm rubbed off on my supervisors, who were supportive of me: they bought me materials — printed in full color, and introduced me to new teaching resources. I wanted to do more, so I took online courses in design and Spanish teaching methodologies as a way of exploring my newfound creativity. Yes, it was a lot of work, but if you put your effort and passion into something, your students will notice and be inspired to work harder, too. In an evaluation, one of my students wrote, “The devil works hard, but Ángela works harder.” I need that saying printed on a t-shirt!

 

My Fulbright experience wasn’t perfect. Moving to the other side of the world, to a different culture with a different educational system and values, not knowing what to expect, and all on my own, wasn’t easy. My advice to future applicants is to make an effort to integrate yourself within the community. There will always be hard times when you feel insecure and homesick, but if you give this opportunity a chance, it will be worth it. And, you never know: you may also discover your passion and future vocation while on Fulbright.

Ángela visits Washington, DC with her trusty Fulbright España tote bag!

If you want to know what Fulbright can do for you, picture me in 2017: no job, no passion, and no idea of what to do with my life. Now, picture me in 2019: I love teaching and have found a new passion and a sense of self-confidence. Now, having landed in Thailand, I’m ready to continue on this newfound path where I love what I’m doing – all thanks to my time as an FLTA.

Foreign Fulbright

Museums Shaping Cultural Understanding: A Fulbrighter’s Perspective

August 26, 2019
By Angeliki Tsiotinou, Fulbright Foreign Student from Greece

In May I visited the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration in New York City. Dr George Tselos, the museum’s Supervisory Archivist, greatly endorsed my research project throughout the course of my fieldwork at the museum

When Fulbright brought me to the University of Illinois, Chicago in November 2017, I arrived ready to investigate the museum representations of North and Southeast European immigration to the United States with a particular– but not exclusive – focus on Greek immigration. Chicago was the ideal base for such research. The city is home to hundreds of distinct ethnic and cultural neighborhoods established during waves of migration to the city from all corners of the world that began as early as the mid-1800s.

As I pursued my research, I soon found myself reflecting on other, no less important topics, relating to the contemporary identity and role of museums. Museums today play a balancing act: answering community members’ diverse needs and backgrounds while continuously adapting to our dynamic, globalized and constantly changing society.

How can museums create a communal space in which to welcome this rich mix of sometimes-divergent perspectives and experiences, I wondered? And how can the study of museums itself help us question established notions of identity and develop innovative museum practices that address our emerging interethnic, inter-racial reality, globally characterized by increasingly complex patterns of human mobility, integration, and acculturation?

While I am still trying to find answers to these questions, my experience with Fulbright helped me realize the power that cultural practitioners have to shape people’s views of the world in a positive way.  As cultural institutions, museums have a distinct role to play in forming critical reflection and debate around ongoing societal shifts and in achieving reconciliation among diverse communities.

With my academic background in material culture and cultural representation theories, my research explored how objects associated with the immigrant past have been contextualized and interpreted in U.S. museum displays, as well as how these displays help articulate our shared interpretations of the immigrant past. My fieldwork took me to a range of ethnic, cultural and immigration museums across the United States, located in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Salt Lake City, Tarpon Springs, and New York City. The visits were complemented by interviews with museum staff and members of the represented community, particularly the Greek American one.

While in Chicago, I also volunteered for a non-profit organization called Chicago Cultural Alliance, a consortium of 40 Chicago-area cultural heritage museums and centers. Through this experience, I was lucky to meet inspiring people advocating passionately for a more inclusive, culturally diverse Chicago by bringing together museums and enhancing dialogue among their communities.

In Tarpon Springs, Florida, I met with Dr. Tina Bucuvalas who curated the ‘Greek Community of Tarpon Springs’ exhibit at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum. Tina’s long experience as a Curator of Arts & Historical Resources for the City of Tarpon Springs proved to be a valuable resource for me.

My Fulbright experience, also my first experience in the U.S., profoundly shaped my personal and my professional development in a variety of ways.

Researching a variety of museums and their day-to-day operations helped me see the tremendous resources that each institution devotes to achieve relevance and resonance with their community members. Speaking with community members of varying origins, ages and backgrounds, I realized that despite the differing ways in which they expressed their ethnic or cultural affiliation, they all shared a yearning for maintaining or regaining a connection to the culture of their ancestors.

My Fulbright experience empowered me. It made me realize that my voice matters and that my work is impactful.

Most importantly, it made me realize that in times of change, we – cultural practitioners and public humanities scholars – are more responsible than ever before to foster public dialogue on democracy, independence, and cultural diversity. By emphasizing what brings us all together rather than what pulls us apart, we can help shape a better future for the world that we all share.