Published: November 20, 2015
Fulbright professors teach from personal experiences rather than a textbook. As they teach languages from their native country, a handful of professors from The University shared their journey while teaching in America.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” according to the Institute of International Education’s website.
Marwa Gaafer, an Arabic language teaching assistant from Egypt, described her transition into America as something she has never experienced before.
“It is a completely different situation and everything just from East to West is a big diversity. I had a hard time to adapt; I left my family and friends,” Gaafer said. “Adaptation is hard for me because everything is different — the weather is different, the food is different.”
Between adapting and globalizing, Gaafer talked more on the importance of understanding both sides of the problem.
“As we are going through the process of globalization, we need for us to know each other very well to know our similarities and our differences,” Gaafer said. “We can focus more on similarities and just respect our differences so we can live in a better place.”
Maria Pia Pallero, a Spanish language teaching assistant from Argentina, has the same idea as Gaafer about the standards of globalization.
“To be tolerant with other cultures, to understand, to learn about other people’s cultures is enriching for everyone,” Pallero said. “So whenever we teach, a language in this case, we should show our students the perspectives and practices that are held in other countries.”
Pallero began diving deeper into the meaning of culture while talking about the benefit of learning a language at the same time.
“I believe that languages are culture, so you need to teach culture at the same time you teach language,” Pallero said. “One of the best ways of doing so is having native speakers teaching the language.”
Céline Langlard, a French language teaching assistant from France, was passionate while contrasting the perspectives of different cultures.
“You are a native speaker, so you really have maybe a different perspective on French culture,” Langlard said. “It is always interesting to see the differences on transportation or how we do this. How do we have our meals because it is really different and when you talk about it — it is like, ‘Really?’”
Although America is viewed differently by all kinds of people, Langlard shared that, surprisingly, she is learning that northern France and Scranton are not as different as she thought they would be.
Janina Schmidt, a German language teaching assistant from Germany, agreed with Langlard. Schmidt explained that Germany is similar to Scranton, but her students are the main difference.
Since the English language is a required course throughout schools in Germany, students lack the excitement she sees in her students here at The University.
“I can really feel the motivation here, and it is so crazy,” Schmidt said. “It is really cool — I love it. The support from the students tells me I’m right to be here.”
Schmidt is enthusiastic about teaching in America because it has always been her dream. Besides one or two vacations, this August was the first time Schmidt really experienced the American way.
“My students are so curious about what I am giving them, also in my class, when it comes to the point of culture they are asking so many questions, and they are so interested in what I have to say that I really appreciate that,” Schmidt said.
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