Shannon Foss, 2015-2015, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Romania
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.
The end of March marked the end of my sixth month as a Fulbright grantee in Romania, which means that I still have one month left to go. The funny thing is that even though I’ve been here six months, I still feel in many ways like I’m just starting to adjust. It constantly surprises me how many new things I learn, experience or realize every day. I meet new people, hear new stories and even find new things in the grocery store!
This experience so far has been more challenging and rewarding that I ever could have imagined. My classes are nothing like I thought they would be, and a lot of that is because I learned how to adapt to the environment. I tried certain things with my students, learned what worked and what didn’t, and made changes. My teaching is still not perfect. A lot of times I expect things to go one way and then something completely different happens. I have also faced problems I never would have expected, like having issues with my health. However, having to deal with them has made me a more confident person.
Stephanie Herzog, 2012-2013, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Romania (left, back row by blackboard) takes some of her students from her English Language Enthusiasts Club at the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Iasi, Romania to a local middle school English class to give her university students hands-on English teaching experience
About a year after I had completed my Fulbright English Language Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Romania, I received an email from a student in one of the literary analysis courses I had taught at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iasi:
“…In the past few days I’ve been rereading Fitzgerald’s ‘Babylon’ revisited and ‘Cathedral’ by Raymond Carver and I actually got myself a copy of S. Anderson’s ‘Winesburg, Ohio’ because I had a very nice time reading the first short story of the collection. I am writing you this email because I really wanted to thank you for the wonderful opportunity you gave us to study these beautiful short stories and for the great way of discussing them in class. Your teaching method, academic and professional yet very warm and good-hearted, had a very high impact on me and made me actually look for more stories from those authors and even others. Thanks to you, I’m a little more into American literature than I was before, and I’m really grateful for that…”
Measuring the impact you have had on the local community you lived in while completing a Fulbright grant is not very easy, but this message reminded me that impact begins on an individual level. Everyone I had encountered and worked with while I was in Romania resulted in a very unique cultural and educational exchange that challenged my own mindset. It was nice to know, from the email above, that I challenged the mindsets of those I had met as well.