UCSD Fulbright ETA Alumna Christina Aguila Chosen for Alumni Ambassador Program!

Today I got the great news that one of our UCSD Fulbright alumnae, Christina Aguila, has been chosen as a Fulbright US Student Program Alumni Ambassador!Christina did an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Indonesia last year.

Alumni Ambassadors travel the country talking about their Fulbright experiences and giving new applicants proposal advice. Soon, the website I linked to above will be updated with special Fulbright email addresses for all the ambassadors, and you’ll be able to write to Christina directly to talk about your application.

Update from Katie Kinsella, ETA in Colombia

Hello potential Fulbrighters,

My name is Katie Kinsella, and I’m a Fulbright ETA living in Cali, Colombia. I wrote a blog a few months back outlining what I’d be doing for the next year in Colombia. Five months in, I wanted to update you all on the successes, challenges, hilarious situations, scary experiences and daily adventures that have defined my time so far here in Colombia. Although I miss hot showers and pumpkin spice lattes, what I’ve discovered here in Colombia about myself, about this beautiful country, and about the inspiring lives of the Colombians I’ve encountered makes everything worth it.

I’ve been called ‘tia de tenis,’ ‘maestra,’ ‘Miss Kinsella,’ ‘teacher Quedi,’ but this is the first time in my life that I’ve been called ‘profe.’ And I have to admit, I really like it. The first time a student called me Professor, I looked around behind me, not realizing the person they were calling was me. This title has been something I have had to live up to. It has motivated me to design every lesson and every class on socially relevant topics that will inspire and challenge my students and call out small and large scale global issues that people so often ignore or choose to overlook. I realized the first day teaching at Universidad del Valle that I would not have to worry about things like indifference or lack of motivation. I also learned fairly quickly that I am teaching a group of revolutionaries! These are students who have seen a lot of the violence in Colombia and are sick of it. They want to see change. No one is silent. They want to be heard. They have overcome a lot in their lives to have a seat in a classroom at UniValle, one of the top 3 best universities in Colombia. They are studying education so they can be that change that they so badly want to see in their country. They are noble, they are daring, they are sometimes extremists. They will be the ones to a light a fire in this country, to scream out to the people in charge who are blatantly failing the Colombian community, to demand justice in places where injustice has permeated all parts of society. They truly are little revolutionaries and I’m both inspired by and slightly scared of what they will accomplish here in Colombia in the next 20 years!

Every Sunday night, I get excited to start the week, to see my university students, and to feel the energy of Universidad del Valle. Throughout the week, I teach 6 different classes for 2-hour class sessions all day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. All of my students are studying to become English teachers, which I just love because I can share with them my classroom experience as well as theoretical knowledge that I gained from my masters program and thesis on bilingual education in San Diego. One of my favorite things about being a professor is office hours! Students sign up for hour sessions- some just want to practice English through conversations and sharing life stories, some bring in articles to analyze, and some of them I’m advising and helping apply to scholarships to study in the US. Office hours have broken down barriers and transformed my students into great friends. Every day I feel honored to be in the same classroom as them. I feel humbled by how they have opened up their lives to me. Some nights I come home exhausted with a raspy voice, some nights I come home feeling more like a psychologist than a professor, and some days I come home feeling like I didn’t even go to ‘work’ because of how much fun I had.

In addition to my time working at the university on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I also am conducting a social project on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Aguablanca, the largest Afro-Colombian community in the country, which is marked by a high level of poverty caused by displacement. I work with a foundation called Fundación Paz y Bien. This non-profit organization consists of a microcredit loan program that gives small loans to local residents to start their own businesses. There is another program that works with displaced people and victims of the drug war with home visits, counseling, and community-wide meetings every Thursday to educate this population on their rights as victims under the “Ley de Victimas”. There is also a branch that works with vulnerable at-risk youth in danger of being recruited for gangs. The organization encompasses everything I believe in about development, with an emphasis on education, leadership, empowerment, and sustainability by creating a path to autonomy, freedom, and independence. On Tuesdays, I hop on a bus that takes me into the heart of Aguablanca, where I work with kids ages 4-18 years old teaching them English in a series of classes I’ve called “Language Empowerment.” I help the teenagers look for jobs, save money, learn about their rights, and help create community leaders by telling them their voice matters. On Thursdays, I work with a population who has widely been overlooked by society: internally displaced people (IDPs), displaced by the violence that has plagued Colombia over the past few decades. I have learned that Colombians are celebrators of life. Despite the hardship they have lived through, this rowdy group of 80-something-year-olds turns every meeting into some kind of dancing and singing performance. I am currently helping them write their life stories so that they can share with the world their reality, a reality that many people around the world have no idea exists.

I’ve realized that I’ve never been more satisfied in terms of work than I have been here in Colombia. I am doing exactly what I have studied to do, what I am most passionate about, what I have been trained in, what I was made to do. I can’t believe how every experience in my life has led me here to this crazy little town that sometimes infuriates me but sometimes inspires me. What a trip.

Katie 1 Katie 2 Katie 3 Katie 4 Katie 5

Introduction to Edward Falk, About to Start Research Grant in Turkey

In a rapidly shrinking field of education funding in the United States, the U.S. Student Fulbright Program stands out in its longevity and support. Though I’ve yet to begin my Fulbright research, thanks to a different fellowship that has allowed me to conduct archival research in Lebanon before I start my Turkish Fulbright, I can comment on the application process and pitfalls that I’ve encountered along the way.

I first considered applying for a Fulbright as an undergraduate at Carleton College, where I had begun studying Arabic and became interested in Syrian history. At that time, a Fulbright was still offered in Syria. However, after months of research, it became clear that without making contact with a Syrian university and academics there, this would not be in the offing. However, working in the Middle East after college had only made me keener to continue my studies and conduct further research.

After beginning in the PhD program in history at UC San Diego, the events of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ led me to refocus my project, as slaughtering sacred cows of nationalism becomes a difficult effort indeed during times of political unrest. By focusing on the position of Syria and Lebanon in the Ottoman Empire, I was able to ask many of the same questions, while hopefully finding the answers in Istanbul rather than Damascus.

So at the end of my first year of graduate school, I went to Izmir, Turkey, to study Turkish in the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program.

This program, also run out of the Department of State [like the Fulbright], is an extraordinary opportunity to intensively study languages in the Middle East, Central Asia, and East Asia, including languages like Turkish, Azeri, Punjabi, and Urdu that aren’t widely taught at American universities. While it was created during the Bush Administration to train students for the Foreign Service, military, or similar careers, it’s actually filled with graduate students and thoughtful undergraduates who are more curious about the world than intelligence positions. [Note from FPA: Please don’t take this as a criticism of careers in the Foreign Service! I think that’s a wonderful career path as well.]

In any case, this program provides an excellent springboard for the Fulbright, as it allows potential research applicants to make contacts with academics in their country of study, while Fulbright ETA applicants’ personal connections in the country can strengthen their applications as well. Finally, it’s run from the same bureau at the Department of State, so CLS alumni definitely stand out in that regard. In my own experience, at least 30% of my CLS Turkish classmates in 2011 and 2012 went on to receive either Fulbright research or ETA grants.

The path to a dissertation and research funding is rarely a direct one, as I can attest with my many stops, starts and detours.

Ultimately, though, it’s a rare opportunity to learn for a living, one that shouldn’t be passed up.

Ted in Ankara

Edward at Ataturk’s tomb during his second CLS trip

Ted former archives

The former home of the Ottoman Archives, where Edward conducted preliminary research in 2011

Kristina Pistone on Watching the World Cup in Chile (and Argentina)

Hello everyone, greetings from Chile!  Sorry for the long delay; things have been fairly busy.  It’s a little hard to believe that I’m now officially halfway through my Fulbright grant (you may remember that in the southern hemisphere, the academic year runs March-November rather than September-June, because of seasons).  For anyone who would like to read about my work and life in Chile so far, I have a more frequently updated blog at travelingscientist.wordpress.com.

Regarding my project, things have gone somewhat slower than I had hoped, due in large part to a number of only-in-South-America setbacks, such as “official data” which is blatantly and inexplicably not quality-checked, meetings with relevant persons canceled and not rescheduled, and general unavailability of instruments needed to calibrate the other instruments.  (Not that things have completely stalled; if you’re interested in my project I have a few posts on my own blog about that!)  Fortunately (from my perspective), the feeling of unproductivity in our projects seems to be common among many of us Fulbrighters here in Chile (or perhaps is just indicative that many of us had far too ambitious projects plans).  But there has definitely been no shortage of cultural experiences.  One of the major work delays this month was also one of the biggest cultural experiences: the World Cup, or the (Copa) Mundial as it is commonly called.

As I described on my blog, Chile’s first game was played on a Friday evening, so basically the entire city shut down early (well, earlier than they normally do on a Friday afternoon).  As with any sport, not everyone was into it, so I still went to my mapudungun class, but as this is close to the city center, we could tell when the game was over (Chile won) by enormous cheers coming from outside.  The second win 2-0 against Spain (the reigning champions from 2010, so quite a surprise) which secured their space in the octavos de final was on a Wednesday– I didn’t even bother to go into work that day, even before they won.  People would disappear in the middle of the day to watch a number of other countries play as well, particularly Colombia and Germany, although oddly not neighbors Argentina– more on that later).

The saddest experience was Chile’s match against Brasil (on a Saturday, so no official work conflict).  After 1-1 (which, Chileans will remind you, was the product of an inadvertent own-goal on their side, Brasil couldn’t even score against Chile!!), extra time, and 4/5 penalty kicks, Chile’s fifth attempt hits the post and Brasil advances.  After the partying and vandalism following the two wins in the group stage (there was the threat of a transit strike during the third game against the Netherlands because of vandalism to the buses– I guess “fortunately” they lost, though?), this last-minute loss/elimination left the city of ~7 million people completely silent.  I know of no cultural event in the US that could provoke such a united response among nearly everyone in the country.  But the team returned home as heroes, including taking selfies with la presidenta.

Chile Mundial

(photo credit Katy Indvik)

As an undergrad (also at UCSD!) I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, so I have a certain affection for that city and Argentina as a whole.  From the beginning I suspected that statistically, Buenos Aires was going to be a more interesting place to be during the final than Santiago, and after delaying because I was trying to convince other people to come with me, I bought my plane ticket the week before the final (right after Argentina secured their spot in one of the last two matches).

In the semifinal match Argentina v Holland, it was really interesting to see the Chileans rooting for the Dutch.  There is an almost sort of sibling rivalry/resentment between these two countries in particular that I really can’t fully explain.  According to Chile, it surely goes back to Argentina stealing land from Chile and cutting off their energy imports, and anyway, Argentine wine totally sucks, you guys; according to Argentina, have you heard what Chile did to Peru and Bolivia? Chile’s pretty terrible, there! This is one of the very few areas in which I will play the role of dumb gringa and say “oh, really? I didn’t know that, that’s interesting, I’ll have to read up on it more” and not get into it any more than that.  Regardless, I was very glad I went to Buenos Aires, even though it resulted in my cell phone being a casualty at the obelisco (PSA: kids, don’t let yourselves get distracted for even a second, even when they steal your hat.  Or maybe grow a third arm so that you can have one hand on everything at a time, and an extra for the hat-stealing contingency, sigh).  But regardless, it was great to watch the game with people who actually wanted Argentina to win.  And even having lost to Germany, the argentinos were still partying.

Argentina Mundial

Dino Hat

(selfie with my soon-to-be-stolen hat.  It had dinosaur spines down the back and everything…)

Also… I hadn’t noticed it before, but I’m pretty sure the Biblioteca Nacional in Buenos Aires was heavily inspired by another library… http://www.buenosaires.travel/Biblioteca-Nacional.aspx

Introduction to Katie Kinsella – ETA to Colombia

Hello, UCSD! My name is Katie Kinsella, and I will be moving to Cali, Colombia, in 3 weeks with Fulbright’s English Teaching Assistantship Program 2014-2015.

Why did I decide to apply to be an ETA in Colombia?

With learning a language comes confidence and empowerment. The ability to speak English in Colombia will allow for social mobility within Colombian society in addition to opening a world of opportunities for Colombian adults in our increasingly globalized world. As an ETA, I will aim to encourage students to expand their own horizons and worldviews by learning about the American culture and English language, in the same way that my eyes and heart have been opened to the Latin American region of our world. Research I have conducted as a masters student at UCSD shows that using pop culture in the foreign language classroom can increase student motivation to learn as it further develops students’ media literacy skills, critical thinking skills and trans-cultural skills. As an ETA in Colombia, I will incorporate pop culture and provide a socio-cultural context to language instruction that allows students to discuss and explore social issues and comparisons across cultures.

While I am in Colombia, 20 hours of my week will be spent teaching English and holding conversation clubs at the university. The other 20 hours of my week will be spent on a social project of my choice; the details of this project will come to fruition once I’m in the placement city, but right now my idea is to partner with a local non-profit organization to promote community empowerment among the Afro-Colombian marginalized populations in the neighboring sector, Agua Blanca.

The Fulbright application itself is a daunting process, but don’t let it discourage you. My best advice is to put your heart into it and take advantage of mentors; professors; UCSD’s Fulbright Program Advisor, Zoe; and friends and family who are willing to read through your statement of grant purpose to give you feedback. Since I found out I was accepted back in April, the Fulbright commission has done an amazing job of sending us detailed information about our placement city; assigning us to a specific Fulbrighter from last year with whom we can Skype for an insider’s perspective; and initiating online weekly webinars on what to expect in Colombia, what to bring, the Colombian university environment, and sharing the challenges as well as the successes of those who have come before us. We have been responsible for sending in our medical release form from our doctor, sending copies of our official transcripts to the International Institute of Education, and filling out quite a bit of paperwork and forms to sign, upload and email. Although the details vary from country to country, Fulbright Colombia has purchased our roundtrip plane ticket through their own specific travel advisor and done a great deal of the visa process so all we have to do is show up at the Colombian Consulate in LA to get our visa stamp in our passport. I have truly enjoyed reaching out to past Fulbrighters in Colombia and learning more about my specific role in the university and what social projects they have conducted as well. Before even stepping foot in the country, I feel very connected and welcomed into the Fulbright Colombia community. Let the countdown begin!

 

 

 

UCSD Internal Application Deadline for 2015-16 Fulbright Program

UCSD’s internal application deadline for the US Student Fulbright Program is September 10, 2014.

The Fulbright program lets you go abroad for approximately one year to conduct research, work toward a graduate degree, complete an arts project, or teach English.

Students interested in the Fulbright program should contact Zoe Ziliak Michel at gradadvisor AT ucsd DOT edu as soon as possible.

Update from Casey McCoy – What Else do Fulbrighters Get to Do?

Two months remain on my Fulbright grant period in Vienna, Austria. It is hard to believe how quickly the time has passed! In my previous post I noted the value in having so much freedom as a research grantee to work on my research and pursue my interests, both at the university with which I am affiliated and elsewhere. In this post I would like to share some information on some of the other kinds of opportunities that the Fulbright program affords.

Besides the intrinsic benefits of the many events and activities here in Vienna, they have also served to introduce me to the scholarly community across Europe such that I have had the chance to travel to nearby countries to present my own work.

The first weekend I was in Austria I attended a workshop at the university and met a scholar who works in Bratislava, Slovakia (a short 45 minute train trip down the Danube from Vienna!). A few months later, after his kind invitation, I was attending and presenting my research at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, getting to know scholars from across the Czech Republic and Slovakia who were in attendance, and enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the organizers and Bratislava!

Recent appointments at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, have led to the creation of a strong center of research in my field. My local advisor spends part of his time in Munich (a five hour train ride from Vienna) and extended an invitation to me to spend a week meeting the locals (and some old friends!) in January. Although I couldn’t be sneaked into the busy schedule of lectures and workshops at the center, I did have an enjoyable week listening to the great talks, chatting over dinner or the famous Munich brews, and taking a memorable stroll through the famous English Garden with new and old friends.

Most recently, the Austrian-American Fulbright Commission hosted their annual Seminar in American Studies, this year held in Strobl, Austria in the Salzkammergut (the Austria “Lake District”) for the first time. Fulbrighters from the U.S. and from Austria gathered together to hear lectures by some of the U.S. Scholars (professors on Fulbright grants) on topics ranging from Gender in Education and Society to Food in American Culture to The American Theme Park Industry. There was also time for the Americans and Austrians to join together in breakout discussion sessions to discuss transatlanticism, food practices in the U.S. and Austria, and others. It was a great time for “promoting mutual understanding!”

These have been great experiences for me personally, and I think give a good glimpse of what kinds of opportunities can arise during a Fulbright research grant (especially in Europe). I look forward to continuing the relationships with new friends and colleagues, and with my host country in the future!

Christina Aguila’s Last Month in Indonesia

Looking back: Where did the last 8 months go?

With only 2.5 more weeks of my grant left, I’m starting to get anxious and excited about returning home. Looking back at an old blog about acclimating and achieving my goals, I’m surprised to learn that I’ve come a long way from the culture shock slump I found myself in 7 months ago.

Personal Blog from October 8,, 2013:

“It’s been 3 months already and I’m still learning to adjust. I’m not feeling very accomplished. I seem to have missed the ‘honey moon phase’ of the culture shock experience. I’m having less than the awesome time that it seems my fellow ETAs are experiencing here. As a secret bule, or secret foreigner, [Note: Christina is Filipino-American] I’m not going on the wonderful excursions that I see others participating in, no dressing in cool traditional outfits, no encounters with exotic animals, no invitations to the mayor’s house. No one is writing news articles about me or asking me to interview on radio stations. I am not treated like a local celebrity as some of my ETA friends. These things have not been a part of my experience in Indonesia, and it is sometimes difficult for me to relate to my fellow ETAs’ experiences here.

“My experience teaching English to international students feels quite useless here, and I’m no natural in an Indonesian classroom. Indonesian schools feel      quite inefficient and disorganized by U.S. standards. I don’t feel  confident communicating in Indonesian, I’m in a constant state of   cultural confusion, and I haven’t started the long process of applying to graduate school. I feel busy, but unaccomplished. Whether I am accomplishing my personal or professional goals, or improving my cultural awareness, it would be nice to feel that I am moving forward. But right now I am feeling quite stuck.”

At my orientation we discussed the culture shock curve and how each ETA would have different experiences of ups and downs throughout the grant. After 1 month at my site, I concluded that teaching in Indonesia was a lot more challenging than I expected it to be. I started my program feeling very ambitious, and I was quickly deflated when I realized that things were not so simple. Even though I have tutoring experience and I prepared myself with many classroom ideas, what worked for me in a U.S. classroom did not necessarily work in an Indonesian classroom. Although people at my school are eager to help, cultural misunderstandings and an inefficient system make it difficult to work at my school. Digital resources are unreliable, the school often has blackouts, and student discipline is handled differently than in the U.S. Before coming to Indonesia, I knew that the environment would be challenging, but I still could not prepare myself enough for it. I’ve learned to accept this situation. After all, I am the first ETA at my school and the first American many people at my school have met. They are still learning how to work with me as I am still learning how to work with them.

Though at times I felt I was far from achieving much, I did reach my main goal of getting accepted to graduate school during my grant. I applied to a Fulbright ETA grant because I felt that a Fulbright program would give me valuable insights for graduate studies in my field of international development. It was challenging to apply to grad school while still figuring out how to live at my site. It can be extremely frustrating dealing with unreliable internet, and people at your site may not understand the stress and pressure of applying to grad school. At the time I applied, I was constantly balancing my current duties as an ETA with finishing my applications. People at my site didn’t understand why I was always tired or so busy. With that said, it is possible to apply to graduate school during your grant as I and several other ETAs in my program did. In order to successfully apply to graduate school while making the most of your grant, I strongly suggest that incoming ETAs gather as many details as possible about their applications and programs in advance of their departure. Consider bringing brochures from the schools you want to apply to in case your internet is not reliable. Completing the GRE, requesting references, and knowing the programs you want to apply to prior to your departure will make the process much smoother.

Besides achieving my goal of getting accepted to grad school, this 9-month grant has been full of other accomplishments and opportunities that have been personal, professional, big and small. I went from zero Bahasa Indonesia to a good conversational level of Indonesian. I tried yoga classes for the first time. I’ve become a more confident person in unfamiliar situations. I volunteered at an English camp at a church in my community. I closely mentored 10 students to compete in a Fulbright English and creativity competition. I encouraged students to participate in their first English competition. I exposed teachers to ideas for being more creative and resourceful in the classroom. I facilitated an American – Indonesian pen pal exchange for my students. I’ve had some special opportunities to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, attend consulate events, and have Thanksgiving dinner at the Chargé d’Affaire’s home. Lastly, I’ve become a part of a large and close network of bright and driven Fulbright Indonesia ETAs.

Christina is a Fulbright ETA in Manado, Indonesia. She graduated from UCSD with her B.A. in International Studies-Political Science. She will pursue her Master’s in Public Administration at NYU Wagner School of Public Service.

 

Annie Dimitras on Being an ETA in a Developing Country

Being an ETA in a Developing Country

Everyone that is or has been a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) will tell you that experiences vary completely by placement. Every placement comes with its own requirements, responsibilities, and challenges. I can’t emphasize enough how carefully you should consider the information provided in each country summary on the Fulbright website before deciding where to apply.

I have been an ETA in two schools in Kosovo for seven months now. I didn’t know what to expect from the schools and education system before I arrived. I wondered what resources would be available, what class sizes would be like, what the curriculum would consist of, and what methods teachers would use. I thought I would write this post about my experiences to give any future ETAs an idea of what their school situation might be like if they are applying to a developing country (especially one in eastern Europe).

Resources:

At both of the schools I work in, there is no technology in the classrooms. The classrooms are very bare-bones with chipping paint walls, rusting blackboards, and tables and chairs for the students. Some classrooms I work in don’t even have functioning lights, so when it’s cloudy, it is difficult for the students to read anything on the blackboard because the room is so dark. Even if they do have lights, the power goes out frequently and can’t be relied on.

One of my 8th grade classrooms


                                                            One of my 8th grade classrooms

 

All the doors are broken
                                                All the doors are broken, and some don’t close

 

Though the classrooms don’t allow for technology-centered lessons, both schools have computer labs (which they call “cabinets” for some reason) equipped with class sets of computers, digital projectors, and speakers.  There is only one of these rooms per school, so all the teachers have to share and coordinate with each other. I am only allowed to use the tech room at one school. It has been great to use videos, audio, and powerpoint in my activities. It helps the students to understand English in different ways and it’s important to mix up activities so the students don’t get too bored. However, because everyone at the school has to share one tech room, it is not feasible to conduct frequent class activities requiring technology.

The tecnology cabinet at one school


                                                In the technology cabinet at one school

 

Since resources are limited in my schools, I have tried to work around using technology in the class. I brought a blue tooth speaker with me from the US. It has been invaluable. I use it in conjunction with my iphone to play bits of audio and music in class. I just record what I need to on my phone prior to class, and the speaker is portable and loud enough to make in an effective classroom tool.

In addition to limited access to technology at school, I also do not have access to a printer or photocopier. If I want to use worksheets for a class, I have to go to a print shop to print and make all my copies. This can get very expensive when you are working with hundreds of students every day. I do prepare worksheets sometimes, but I have opted for more speaking and blackboard based activities. It was difficult and frustrating at first to plan lessons that worked around these limitations, but there are plenty of engaging and effective activities that require no resources at all.

Annie Pic Blackboard


                                                            Blackboard at my primary school

 

Functioning of Schools:

Saying that schools in Kosovo are very different from schools in the US is an understatement. It has been fascinating to witness how another country’s system of education functions, but it has also been extremely frustrating at times. First, there is a shortage of schools in my host country. To remedy this, all schools work in two or even three shifts. This means the school day is very condensed and students may only attend for four hours a day. Some students don’t finish school until after dark, while others have to be at school by 7am but might have to travel an hour by bus from their home. These shifts make the classes too short to accomplish much, and it also makes it very difficult to coordinate any extracurricular activities.

Another difference here is that teachers do not have their own rooms. Instead, students remain in one room for the duration of the school day and the teachers travel from class to class. This makes extensive prep or clean up from a lesson difficult. Teachers also are not actually trained as teachers; they just have a BA in their subject. This means they have never studied pedagogy or teaching methods. Teachers are also not paid well, and many of the teachers I work with have one or two additional jobs to help support their families. So, they might be a little less invested in their position at the school than you might expect. This became very apparent to me through the lack of lesson planning and general organization of lessons. It is common practice throughout my host country for teachers to arrive in each class, take a book from a student, and ask the student where they left off last class and if they had assigned any homework. Can you imagine a teacher doing that in the US?

Students are very similar to students in the US. The main difference is what is expected from them. From an early age, some learn to just copy everything from their more motivated friends. Teachers do not object or pay any attention to this practice. Cheating and plagiarism are huge problems at all levels of school in my host country. Even professors at the university have plagiarized their research (this was recently proven). It is difficult to witness these practices and not really have power to do anything about it. I think it affects students’ motivation. Why study, why do homework, why be engaged, when you can pass the class in the end without doing the work? This attitude has proved very challenging for me to alter with my activities and role in the classroom.

There is also a vast lack of a disciplinary system at my schools. If a student is too loud or doesn’t do his homework, a teacher will most likely yell at them. Maybe the student will be sent out of the classroom for the duration of the class. I have also seen many teachers hit many students (this is banned by law but not in practice). The most serious disciplinary measure is calling the student’s parents. Unfortunately, these are the only measures that are practiced at my schools and they are incredibly ineffective. Also, some behaviors are not seen as problems, like fighting, for example.

The "playground" at school


                                                The playground at my primary school

These are just some examples of what I have experienced as an ETA in a developing country. Again, every host country and every placement location within differs from the next. I didn’t know what to expect when trying to mental prepare myself for my Fulbright grant last summer. If you are thinking about being an ETA, applying to be an ETA, or awaiting the start of your grant as an ETA, I would recommend preparing yourself to be flexible and ready for anything. My time as an ETA has definitely helped me to become more adaptable, resourceful, and to always have a backup plan.