By Kseniya Slutskaya

Herald Contributor

Six Fulbright recipients from different parts of the world came to HWS this year to both teach their native languages and study. The Fulbright is the US program which provides grants for foreign students to travel to the US and be Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTA) as well as for the American students to go abroad for the same reason. This program is not only about teaching the language, but mainly about being an ambassador of your country and destroying stereotypes about different aspects of foreign cultures. This is the reason why HWS FLTAs are organizing conversation tables, discussions, cultural events besides teaching. Read about these unique personalities and feel free to contact them!

Joubert Maxence
Name: Joubert Maxence (France)
Education: BA in French Literature, First year of MA, French as a Foreign Language Course taught: French language (101, 201), French conversation table (Thursday, 3:30 pm-4:30 pm)
  • How did you get into this program? I had thought about my Fulbright program 5 years before my actual application. I was in my first year of bachelor when I was discovering the advantages of this program, especially its financial benefits. This is a very important aspect for me since I come from a low-income family and can’t afford a trip to the US on my own. So, I waited for several years, got my BA (it was one of the requirements) and applied. I didn’t expect to be selected, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. So out of 100 applicants there were only 25 candidates who got selected and I was one of them! To my great surprise! I guess my trip to South Korea (I studied there for 1 year through Erasmus program) played its part, because it might have been one of the reasons for the Fulbright Committee to trust me as an open-minded person with experience of being abroad.
  • What are your hobbies? I wouldn’t say that I have them. I love lots of things, but they are not something I do on regular bases. The main thing that I really like in my life is travelling. I want to discover new cultures, improve my language skills (English). I don’t want to restrict myself to one country, to spend my life only there, that is why I love travelling. Unfortunately, money doesn’t come with travelling, so it is not always possible to be fully engaged into my “hobby”.
  • Can you say that studying languages is your hobby? No, because studying a new language is painful and unpleasant sometimes. I know English, I learnt Korean with lots of struggles, now I am studying Chinese, but it’s also complicated. I am just a curious person: I want to learn even if I am not going to speak the language. I want to be independent and don’t want to be stuck in life routine, which is the worst for me.
  • How would you describe yourself in 5 words? I am determined, curious, adventurous, independent, passionate.
  • What surprised you in America? I would say the cars. They are twice bigger then in France. One more thing is food in Saga. It’s something I’ve never seen before on campus, because in France in the university cafeteria you can get some water and not a great choice of food. And of course, the size of the campus – it’s huge and incomparable to South Korean or French ones. Everything is bigger here. And those things which I only saw in the movies (students coming by their cars on campus, the size of campus itself, etc.) are true and they are happening to me right now and here.
  • What are the things you are missing very much here? Cheese and wine – because I am French and it’s a part of my culture; “l’apero” – it’s basically the time of the day on Fridays or weekends between 5 pm and 7 pm when we have a glass of champagne or wine with a piece of cheese within our family circle or with friends. This is something which brings French people all together and I really miss it here. The third thing will be the French language. Regarding the fact that I am teaching it, I can say, being surrounded by it like in France is a completely different story. In South Korea I used to have French friends, but here I am the only native speaker.
  • How would you encourage students to learn French? First, French is one of the languages which is spoken all over the world, and I think it is important to know such languages, it’s practical. It gives you the chance to feel free while travelling. And French people are very passionate about their culture and communities in Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Asia, Vietnam, etc. Music. Yes, it is also important! I remember me learning English – I started doing it because I wanted to know what the singer was saying. And many of my students love French songs. Imagine how you would feel having a glass of champagne and singing alone with your favorite French musician!
Matías Fernández
Name: Matías Fernández (Argentina)
Education: Teacher of English (BA)
Course taught: Spanish 101 & 201, Spanish conversation table (Thursday, 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm)
  • How did you get into this program? I learnt about Fulbright program in 2016 or 2017. One of my colleagues, she was my teacher at that time, had travelled to the USA as a teaching assistant and she recommended it to me. I didn’t really know what it was about, but after some research and my graduation in 2018 I applied for the first time in August. I was not shortlisted that time. I was very young and inexperienced. I was teaching in high and primary school (not the university). Nevertheless, I was so eager to study and teach abroad, because it’s every English teacher’s dream in a way. Moreover, it was my last chance actually, because of my age (in Argentina we can apply if we are 29 or under). So, in 2020 I applied for the second time, and I am here now.
  • What are your hobbies?  One of them is reading – fiction and non-fiction. I enjoy Nature, hanging out with my friends and outdoor activities. Weekends outside, jogging and walking are my favorite!  I also like movies, but not in the cinema. In Argentina we have cinema clubs which show different types of non-mainstream movies. They are curated by a specialist in this type of films and normally there is an introduction to the film and sometimes we discuss it afterwards. But what I am really excited about is languages and realization that I have learnt something! 
  • How would you describe yourself in 5 words? I am curious, reliable, open-minded, quiet, generally introspective.
  • What surprised you in America? That’s an interesting question! I am glad you asked it, because I have been thinking about it for a long time. I have two main aspects of America that really surprised me. On the one hand, those basic everyday things which I cannot find in my home country. On the other hand, the things that I knew before coming and now I have a chance to compare. During my stay here I have been surprised by the size of things in America: buildings, the colleges, supermarkets, parking lots, food packages and many other things. Also, American customs related to dinner time, breakfast. In Argentina we have dinner at around 9 pm-11pm, but here it’s too early. I knew about this through movies, but now when I am living here and experience it myself, it seems surprisingly unusual. There is also something on a deeper level concerning languages: Spanish is amazingly widespread here. I have come across many Spanish speakers, English speakers who are teaching or have taught Spanish at some points in their lives. In two courses I am taking I am learning how Spanish is a prevalent language in primary and secondary schools. An amount of Latin and Hispanic people who arranged their lives here, having moved their families and having jobs, often in positions when they can make important decisions is also surprisingly high. And this is not what you can see from abroad, being not in America. 
  • What are the things you are missing very much here? The things I miss are of two different levels: down-to-earth and spiritual. I really miss having my own means of transport – my bike the one I have in Argentina, my car. It’s not that I am struggling, but I think our life could be much easier here with a car. I will be honest if I say I don’t miss people all the time, but I do miss spending quality time with my loved ones. This time is place bound: sometimes near the river or by the hills in the place where I come from. And it is not about the activities, but the time shared with people I love. And it will not happen until June 2022, so that is what I really miss now.
  • How would you encourage students to learn Spanish? I have been a language learner myself and I will continue to be a language learner. This is an ongoing process, and it is going to be hard at times especially if this language is very different from your native one. But the rewards of learning a new language are much more beneficial than the struggle you go through while learning it. It is not a secret that learning a language trains your brain in a physiological way as much as it does with the way you see the world. It opens your mind if you are willing to do so and helps you to meet new communities of people which enriches your life as it is.
Reem A. H. Elhanafi
Name: Reem A. H. Elhanafi (Egypt)
Education: B.A. in English Language and Literature
Course taught: Arabic, Arabic conversation table (Thursday, 7 pm – 9 pm, biweekly)
  • How did you get into this program? Ever since I was in my 4th year of university, I used to see the ad pop up in front of me several times and I heard about the program from a couple of friends as well. I was always eager to know what that program was, but I needed to graduate first. However, after my graduation I immediately enrolled into a postgraduate program, so I didn’t give myself a chance to explore the world beyond me. Every summer I used to apply, but I never actually submitted it until last summer. I finally said: “Just go for it!” and I did! Despite the many obstacles on this way (including COVID), I managed to avail. The only real challenge for me was to convince myself that I have potential, because there were around thousands of candidates all over Egypt, but here I am!
  • What are your hobbies?  I know many people would think this is boring, but I love cello. It is something which breathes life into you, it sends you a message without having voices speak. I also love singing though I am not a professional singer, but it’s more about comforting myself with songs. I would say I like reading though I have been not much of a reader lately.  I love taking pictures although it’s not one of the things I would generally mention to people because they would think I am a photographer, but I am not! I simply use my mobile camera to snap pictures of invaluable moments and picturesque sceneries.
  • How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Ecstatic, shy, excited, ever-growing, ever-learning.
  • What surprised you in America? The kindness and generosity of people here. This is something I did not expect! This is where the media is always at play. It sends you this false image about Americans being so uptight and isolated from one another. Yet here I am asking a sandwich lady for a very specific type of sandwich because I can’t eat some of the ingredients, and she made it specifically for me. Ever since day one people here have been helping me a lot be it the lady who took me from the airport, my supervisors here, my flat mates or my colleagues. They are all so generous and helpful!
  • What are the things you are missing very much here? The family – that’s number one. I really miss my mom’s comforting hugs, my dad’s encouragement, my sisters’ Tiktok-related jokes and memes. Good food will be on the top of the list too. Although I don’t mind it much here, the food in my country is always bursting with flavor. Here it is more on the sweet side. They add a lot of sugar and grease, both of which do not go well with my general health and body condition, and just disrupts my eating habits. Also, I miss sitting in the office with my friends and best friends. I miss unwinding with them after a very long and hectic day. Here, I sometimes end up finding myself sitting alone in the office and it’s kind of sad.
  • How would you encourage students to learn Arabic? I would not start by teaching them the language, but the culture, which will get them interested more about the language. So, the thing that I wanted to do first is to make my students listen to upbeat Egyptian music; the kind that would get you running hundred miles per hour on the treadmill without you realizing it. After that you would want to know what is mentioned in the song, so that would encourage you to study the language. This is what I mean by “culture”. It must be culture oriented. If you strip the language from culture, it will be bland.
Meriam El Houari
Name: Meriam El Houari (Germany)
Education: English, Philosophy, Education MA
Course taught: German 102
  • How did you get into this program? I already studied a year in England through Erasmus program, and I guess I got addicted to going abroad. I think if you once lived this experience you want to do it again, so I was looking for alternatives for studying or teaching abroad with the full coverage. Studying in Birmingham was expensive so I was thinking of how I can get abroad this time combining teacher training and earning money. I googled and discovered Fulbright program. During preparation for my graduation, I applied for this program, and I got it!
  • What are your hobbies?  I like doing sports. I used to swim competitively but dropped that and now I am just doing cardio. I like watching TV shows. I paint at home a little bit, but I am just an amateur. I am practicing using any kind of canvas like wood for example. I paint it white and work with oil or acrylic. I have never tried watercolors though and I would love to. Reading is also my favorite activity. I like young adult books or coming of age novels, fiction. The best one I have recently read is “Six of crows” by Leigh Bardugo and it was amazing!
  • How would you describe yourself in 5 words? I think I am open and creative… Oh, that is a difficult question! Easy to hang out with, loyal and trustworthy.
  • What surprised you in America? The food! I really thought that the fast food would be so delicious, and I would not resist it, but it happened to be not that good. I cannot believe it, but I feel British food is better. The people are very nice, nicer than expected, but still hard to befriend. I see a kind of superficial friendliness, which doesn’t really go under the surface. I can’t see myself being friends with any of the Americans and it’s strange, because from my stay abroad I am still in touch with a couple of people. But we will see! Maybe I am wrong! Everything may change.
  • What are the things you are missing very much here? My family, my friends, routine and my boyfriend. It’s like a two-edge sword: you have the new things here, but on the other hand they scare you as well and you don’t have this stability you are used to, and you have to create a new one. It is a character-building process, but it’s hard. And you have to watch out for the mental health
  • How would you encourage students to learn German? I think you should understand that you will always benefit from learning a new language no matter what language it is, but I would start with German culture. It has a lot of nice and interesting things to learn and to know about. I would recommend staying abroad, trying it out, getting a taste of it and become motivated to learn the language while doing it, when coming back or before that!
Margherita Merola
Name: Margherita Merola (Italy)
Education: Languages and intercultural communication in Euro Mediterranean area (MA), Linguistic and Cultural Mediation (BA)
Course taught: Italian for beginners (101) Italian conversation table (Thursday, 5 pm – 6 pm)
  • How did you get into this program? I found an advertisement from Fulbright commission on Facebook, and I got interested. After some google research, I decided to apply as I felt I needed this experience to complete my educational background. Now when I am here, I understand I was right because I can enrich my language knowledge and my teaching skills. I know that only 3 applicants were chosen as the winners, so I feel lucky and privileged to be one of them!
  • What are your hobbies?  Sport! I love going to the gym, because I think it is important for us to do sports especially during wintertime when there is not much opportunity to walk or exercise outside. Sport is my big love and I hope one day I will get a professional training to become a certified gym instructor. I need to study, because I am a dedicated person myself and I want to become a real professional, not an amateur trainer.  I prefer following people on Instagram who are qualified, and I can learn from them. Then, music. Even though I don’t have my favorite singer, but I really love listening to all kinds of music both foreign and Italian of cause. It makes me alive. Watching films and TV series is also what I like doing when I have free time. I prefer something touchy, and true stories are my special love! 
  • How would you describe yourself in 5 words? I am motivated, determined, ambitious, friendly, open-minded.
  • What surprised you in America? The way people live in the University. The University culture. This is something we don’t have in Italy, so it is new and attractive. The University here is students’ first home and I really like that, because they are young and independent from their parents in a way. Another thing is teaching approach. In Italy at the university classes are mostly lectures. I discovered that here everything is based on a discussion which helps you to develop critical thinking. I guess this is something that allows you to broaden your horizons, enrich your knowledge and thoughts.  It also helps you to remember what you have learnt and grow professionally.
  • What are the things you are missing very much here? My family. I miss our meetings, spending quality time, going out with my boyfriend and shopping with friends. A real miss when I feel sad, I would call my parents and they could come and visit me. Video calls help a lot here, but they are not the same as real physical contacts with your family. Food is the second thing and Italian pizza in particular. I am used to eating pizza once a week. Coffee is also different here.
  • How would you encourage students to learn Italian? I think that each person is a representative of their culture, that is why it is so important to have a native speaker as a teacher of a foreign language. Culture can be transmitted only by a person who lives that kind of experience. I think my culture can help the students to learn the language, that is why I try to include it in my every lesson. It is really the best way to make them love the language. For example, office hours are designed specifically for students who have questions about the language. But the other day I had a couple of students who are supposed to go to study in Italy next semester and I gave them advice where to go, what to see and try there. After our conversation they said that now they would love to study Italian even more to make sure they can practice it in Italy with the natives. They left my office inspired and this inspires me too.
Kseniya Stutskaya
Name: Kseniya Slutskaya (Russia)
Education: PhD in Comparative linguistics
Course taught: Rus 410, Rus 101, Rus 201 Russian conversation table (Wednesday, 2 pm – 3 pm)
  • How did you get into this program? It was a really long way. Though I learnt about it in 2012 when my teacher of English went there and told us all about the experience, it was not until 2019 that I decided to apply. Just for fun. Just to see how far it will lead me. And I was accepted! But due to COVID my participation was cancelled. Since I was already challenged once, I decided to finish what I had started. And applied for the second time. So, I am here now. But to tell the truth it was a really painful journey to this point full of waiting and uncertainties.
  • What are your hobbies?  Painting and art in general are my passion. I can’t paint, but I love doing it! It’s a form of meditation for me. I am also a certified NL coach (neuro language), so I like reading about the brain and how it functions to use this knowledge to speed up foreign language acquisition. Recently I have discovered neurographics (which is also about the brain) and was completely involved into it! Apart from art I would point out psychology and languages. They say one can’t be a teacher without being a psychologist. And I totally agree with that! I am really into helping people understand their emotions, wishes and desires, their true selves. A couple of months ago I completed the course of treating psychosomatic disorders and this is what truly fascinates me, because it’s unbelievable and astonishing how our body is such complicated a system which immediately reacts to certain actions.
  • How would you describe yourself in 5 words? I guess Lady Gaga did it for me once. She said: “Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before”. I would add shy and timid. A bit more than 5 though.
  • What surprised you in America? The hospitality and willingness to help. In Russia it is something you will wait from only close people who know you pretty well, but not from those you have just met! Since I arrived, I have received so many compliments from random people. And whenever I had a question, everyone was eager to answer or help solve the issue. Some people at Saga who are trying to make your day easier and adding a bit of humor to it. Our supervisors sending “How are you” messages and checking on us. Yes, I guess, mostly people and their attitude make the difference here.
  • What are the things you are missing very much here? Apart from close people, my psychological practice. And it’s a shame to see that some students really need help, but I can’t offer it myself. It is unethical. Also, I lack communication in English with native English speakers! It may sound ridiculous, but we can’t make friends with students, faculty (we understand how busy they are!) or locals. Maybe it is because of culture differences, but maybe of something else! One more thing which I hugely miss is my car and the feeling of being independent with my trips. For example, I had to refuse the course last semester only because it is downtown, and I had no idea of how to get there and back when winter comes. I still need to learn “ask-somebody-for-a-ride” skill.
  • How would you encourage students to learn Russian? I think when you deliberately chose Russian as the language to learn, you don’t need any further encouragement! You are already motivated. However, there are some students who are considering taking Russian. I won’t be original, and I would say that students will never be motivated if they are taught only the language. I immediately remember myself learning French and being mesmerized by the culture, food, songs and especially the musical “Notre Dame de Paris”. I used to know all the songs from it by heart. And then Zaz appeared. So, to cut a long story short, I would advise to first read/listen/search for the cultural aspect of the language and only if you like it – start learning the language! It’s not a way without obstacles, but it’s worth it!

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