Fulbrighters around the globe spent the year teaching, pursuing research, and enacting community engagement, building mutual understanding in more than 140 countries, one connection at a time. Take a look back on some of our highlights in our 2019 Fulbright Year in Review.
By Jeffrey Thiele, Fulbright U.S. Student Open Study/Research Grantee to El Salvador
As I reflect on my time as a 2018 Fulbright grantee to El Salvador, it might be easy to say that I accomplished my mission. I wanted to use my master’s degree in philosophy and health to solve a real-world problem: increasing healthcare access for Salvadorans displaced by violence by working with Cristosal, a local NGO. My grant year did give me plenty of opportunities to put theory into practice, but what I didn’t see coming, however, was the role that music would play in that journey.
When I arrived in San Salvador, I knew very little about the local political, economic, and social situation. I quickly realized that there are no quick fixes to the problems that El Salvador faces, and that I wouldn’t be able to make the sweeping changes I had anticipated going into my Fulbright. While I plugged away with the newfound perspective that I would be doing more learning than doing, another project began to occupy my nights.
This is where Saxo Sue, my loyal, traveling saxophone, appears. Having recently fallen back in love with music during my master’s program, Saxo Sue had made the voyage with me to San Salvador, though I had little hope of finding much music there. The first month of my time with Saxo Sue in–country was spent going over old classical repertoire in the light of the evening sun. While I was making occasional improvisations and recording them, I wasn’t really moving forward musically.
Two months in, one of my friends invited me to a gig where her friend’s boyfriend, a local trumpeter, would be playing with his group called The Zamora Brothers. I was so excited to learn that jazz was happening in the capital, and that there was such a vibrant music scene in a land where many people are still fighting for fundamental human rights. The concert got me thinking about the resilience of the arts and its unique ability to exemplify and push forward necessary human and social rights.
In the following weeks, Pipe (pronounced “pee-peh”), the trumpet player for the Zamora Brothers, invited me to a jam session at his house with another local band, Camelo. I connected with Camelo’s leader Jorge Gómez, who said Saxo Sue and I brought the final “oomph” and tonal character that the band was seeking. I was in.
Apart from joining Camelo as their seventh member, I became involved in about eight other music projects in and around San Salvador, including establishing my own jazz project, called Buxo Don Luis. Both Camelo and Buxo Don Luis have been getting national, and even international, recognition, and will be touring outside of El Salvador in the coming year.
My involvement and (unexpected) fame in the Salvadoran music scene has given me a wider-reaching platform from which I can share my thoughts and work on human rights and social justice. More broadly, music has been a means to not only express myself, but to advance a broader rights movement inside and outside the country. I participated in a “Reach the World” virtual exchange with a New Jersey elementary school classroom, where I balanced our conversations about heavy Salvadoran social issues with some improvisations with Saxo Sue. With music as the bridge, we accomplished a key Fulbright goal of building mutual understanding between cultures.
I came to El Salvador for research, and have come away pursuing my dream of becoming a bona fide musician. Music has helped me integrate into the community in San Salvador, empowered me to meet new people, and become an authentic participant in this beautiful culture. As I grow personally and professionally, I can share the joy of music and express the urgency of the situation in El Salvador.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Leveraging Fulbrighters’ Insights for American Classrooms: The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program and Reach the WorldNovember 21, 2017
For nearly ten years, Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) have had the opportunity to volunteer with Reach the World (RTW) to share their experiences abroad with pre-kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms back home in the United States.
RTW utilizes the power of virtual exchange to enable Fulbright ETAs, who apply to volunteer with RTW, to bring their host country into an engaged classroom of American students. Fulbright ETAs share many aspects of life in another country with their student audiences in the United States, from grilled meats in Argentina to the unique plant life in the Maltese archipelago. These talented, passionate recent college graduates and early career professionals also capture rare, extraordinary experiences, like visiting the remote Caño Cristales river in Colombia. As young learners from throughout the United States interact with Fulbright ETAs, they are building vital global competencies that will serve them for years to come while challenging their perspectives about the world and their role as citizens. These global competencies include such things as increased geographic literacy and a greater desire to travel, changes in empathetic thinking when encountering difference, and pursuing higher education opportunities.
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 was a misty Thursday morning in Seia. I exited the passenger side door of a silver compact car and looked up at the yellow Instituto Politécnico da Guarda (IPG) School of Tourism building. I was with my coworker, Rita, who had asked me to do a presententation to her management students on American culture. This was my first experience teaching English as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to a group of students in Portugal, and I was eager to discover what the students knew about American culture and traditions. Rita and I entered the building and prepared the classroom for the day.
By 9:15 a.m., the freshman students shuffled sleepily into the classroom and took their seats. They exchanged confused glances with one another, unsure of whether to speak to me in English or in Portuguese. I stood there in my black blazer and greeted them with “Good morning, everyone.” Rita sat in the back of the classroom and remained there to observe my presentation. Once the last straggler sat down at his desk, Rita smiled and flashed me a thumbs up. It was time to begin.
I introduced myself to the twenty students in the room and began my PowerPoint presentation on where I was from, my academic background and hobbies.
I then clicked to the next slide: an outline of the United States of America with the red, white and blue flag waving in the background.