Congratulations to 2011 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Turkey, Devin Sommer, winner of the Institute of International Education and The New York Times in Education Generation Study Abroad Video Contest! Check out his wining video below. To learn more about Generation Study Abroad, click here.
Hanna Miller, 2013-2014, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Russia (right), surveying Russia through a telescope
Mississippi Heard began in Russia. On a month-long train ride across Russia during my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA), I gathered video and audio recordings while fellow Fulbrighter Stephen Barton photographed the people and places we came across and met. We asked Russians about their perceptions of America and how they defined themselves within their own pre-existing stereotypes.
But, the train ride was just one side of the story. After hearing how Russians felt about my homeland, international (mis)perceptions, and their “true” identity, I was left wondering – what do people from my home think about this country I’ve lived in for the past 10 months?
Born and raised in the South, I grew up in a town of 2,000. When I lived in Naberezhnye Chelny, Tatarstan, Russia with a Fulbright ETA, my students often asked me what life was like in America. They had ideas I came from a land of wealth, privilege, and luxury. While I can’t deny the United States is toppling over with too much, it is fact I grew up in the poorest, fattest, least educated state: Mississippi.
Jilisa Milton, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Indonesia, at the underground mosque near Taman Sari (Water Castle) in Yogyakarta
When I found out that I was accepted to become a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Indonesia, I did not know what to expect. I was excited and nervous, as I had never lived or studied abroad. I had some teaching experience in a small ESOL program in Florida, but had no impressive foreign language experience. Many things also went through my mind about traveling as an African-American woman because I had heard of many experiences from other people of color about having to process unique challenges as a result of traveling overseas.
When I arrived in Indonesia, I felt immediately overwhelmed. Firstly, I was welcomed in Bandung (city in central Java) by a two-week intensive cultural competency and language training. In spite of the challenges I faced during those weeks, I was met with the extreme hospitality and kindness that Indonesian people are known for. Bahasa Indonesia, Indonesia’s national language, was very difficult to grasp at first, but I began to realize how easy it was to pick up in practice.
Schuyler Cowan, 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.
It is important to be able to view a situation or problem from more than one perspective. If you can think about how someone else might resolve a problem, then you may have an easier time solving it. This is why traveling and living abroad are such important experiences. Living in Germany has not only opened my eyes up to new perspectives, but it has also helped me form my own. This is especially true for my work as a language assistant in a German school.
When I first arrived at my school in Germany, I had an idea of what my experience would be like based on books I had read and movies I had seen. Some of these ideas reflected stereotypes about Germany. Stereotypes are popular ideas about places or people that are often exaggerated or wrong. Do you know what any of those stereotypes might have been? Think back to the interview I did with my colleagues, Klaudia and Jana. What did they say about Germans? One of these ideas was that all Germans are punctual. This means that they are always on time and they like discipline. I thought that the classroom environment would be very quiet and strict. I was in for a big surprise!
Hannah Rosenberg Jones, 2014-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Jordan (left, front row, in red shirt), with her dojang partners at the Al Faris Taekwando Center in Amman, Jordan
When I first moved to Amman, Jordan as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, I sought experiences that would take me away from the comfort of my expat community. Having participated in athletics my entire life, I chose to pick up taekwondo at a dojang near the University of Jordan, where I taught. Located in the basement of a popular hookah café, I remember feeling nervous that I was about to descend into a room full of only men. To my pleasant surprise, the hole-in-the-wall taekwondo club that I had chosen happened to also host a number of top female athletes.
During my day-to-day activities in Amman, I was confronted by numerous obstacles. Communicating in Arabic was difficult, navigating public transportation was tricky, and teaching a classroom of 60 students was a new challenge. In the evenings, I was a 30-year-old taekwondo beginner who spoke awkward textbook Arabic going up against black-belt, adolescent Olympic hopefuls who spoke Arabic a mile a minute.