Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Fulbright Experience

José Gutiérrez at Philpott Lake near Ferrum.

By José Gutiérrez

Hi. I am José Gutiérrez. I am from Chetumal, Mexico. I am the fourth Fulbright Spanish Teaching Assistant (TA) in Ferrum. As part of the Fulbright program, around 400 teachers from all over the world come to the United States every year to teach their language as TAs. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English language and a master’s in Education, and I taught English in my hometown for two years before I came to the United States.

This exchange program was not only a great opportunity to refine my teaching skills but also to broaden my knowledge of American culture and customs. Precisely, the first-hand experiences I had last semester helped me to learn more about the culture. Thanks to television, movies and music, I had an idea of how big cities look like but I didn’t know much about the countryside. Last semester I attended some folk festivals in cities and towns like Salem, Martinsville and Greensboro, and I enjoyed the music, food, exhibitions, and crafts of the region, especially bluegrass music. I loved it! It was a semester full of first-time experiences: college football, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the fall, and lately the snow. And the cold, well, I am still working on that.

I also celebrated Día de Muertos and enjoyed the altars that students made as part of a contest. It was nice to see altars outside of my country. I have also encountered many Spanish speakers in Virginia and some neighbor states. It has not been really difficult to get authentic food from my region in Mexico, and I get to see how people have mixed their Latin American culture to the American one. Overall, this experience has made me appreciate more my culture.

Students at the Tertulia.
Last semester, I taught two sections of Spanish 101 and ran speaking workshops called “Tertulias”. Moreover, I took courses on American studies. This semester I will have more assistance duties and continue working on the “Tertulias”. I hope to have a great semester and to enjoy both the Spanish assistantship and the courses I will take.

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