The Experiences of Our Fulbright Teaching Assistants over This past Academic Year

The Experiences of Our Fulbright Teaching Assistants over This past Academic Year
Click to enlarge. From left to right: Esma, Natasha (Zhu) and Amaliya.

For the past year, our department had the honor and pleasure of hosting three Fulbright teaching assistants: Esma Boukhalkhal from Algeria, Zhu Liu from China and Amaliya Arakelova from Russia. With the help of our Fulbright coordinator, Dr. Karl Zhang, they were able to integrate well in the Mason community while being busy teaching, studying and discovering our area and country. They are pictured on the left, enjoying a departmental reception.

Here is what Ms. Arakelova, a PhD candidate in Russia, had to say: “So, as the year is coming to a close, more and more often I stop to wonder, if I would have spent my time in the USA as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant any differently, had I the chance to start over. And almost instantly I give myself the answer: "No", everything was perfect. By perfect I mean really great work experience, the opportunity to advance my teaching skills, learn what it is like to be teaching American students. I also met incredible people, the ones that make you want to improve yourself, push yourself a little harder, a little further. Have my expectations proven to be true? Yes, and far beyond that. Whatever I thought was waiting for me here turned out to be way more exciting and rewarding. I am very grateful to Fulbright for this truly unique opportunity. Definitely this experience is of great value to me - as a person and as a teacher of a foreign language. When I go back to Russia, I would have a better understanding of what I am doing, I will definitely be better at motivating my students, as I am much more motivated myself now. I think it is very difficult to convey what it is like to finally delve into the culture of the country I have been reading so many books about and watching lots of movies about. For me it was a dream come true, only now I know that this is not the limit. I think that whatever plan I set to fulfill, with the right mindset I will get there. This is also something that I learned here, both as a student and a university professor. All in all, I took my time to get into the program, I took a chance and I took a risk, and it was definitely worth it”.

And, in Ms. Liu’s words, who was also called Natasha by her Western name: “I began my Fulbright FLTA Application process in May 2013, and learned one year later that I was matched with Mason. Since earlier excitement and ambitions have elapsed with time, I was in a dreamy state in the first three months at Mason. I met and spoke to all kinds of people, and experienced quite a few cultural shocks, which was unexpected as I thought I knew American culture fairly well. Indeed knowing is one thing and accepting is another. During the Winter break I went to Florida for the warmth, and came back energetic and relaxed. I focused more on teaching and learning in the second semester, and had a clearer and more critical view of American society and my own country after more traveling to near-by cities. I also participated in a variety of activities including sports, church services, concerts, parties and so on. This Fulbright year is definitely life changing because it opens for me a window to a new world”.

We look forward to the arrival of this year’s new Fulbrighters!

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