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Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in South America, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Near the Halfway Mark

Near the Halfway Mark

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On the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls.

I am now almost halfway through my time in Brazil as a Fulbright grantee, and I have had a great experience so far!  A lot has happened since my last blog post, but I’ll try to fill you in.

In the end, I ended up being assigned to the city of Belo Horizonte in the middle/southeast of Brazil, which was one of the two cities I requested as preferences.  So that worked out perfectly!  Belo Horizonte may not be as famous as Rio or Sao Paulo outside of Brazil, but with about 2.5 million people it is the 6th largest city in Brazil and the capital of Minas Gerais, one of the largest and richest states in Brazil in terms of history and culture.  I am finding that Belo Horizonte has everything you expect from a huge city in terms of things to do, while also maintaining the smaller feel and particular culture of the state of Minas Gerais, which is known for its warm and receptive people, comfort food, and colonial history.  I really could not have been happier with my city placement, given the wide variety of options in a country as large as Brazil.

Of course, there is so much more to this year as a Fulbrighter than how much I enjoy the city I was placed.  As an ETA (English Teaching Assistant), the vast majority of my time during the week revolves around attending and preparing classes in the Ingles sem Fronteiras (English without Borders) program here at the Federal University of Minas Gerais – UFMG.  My role in the classroom varies depending on the class.  All of the English classes here have a professor who is responsible for organizing and teaching the class, so it is up to them how to use me as a teaching assistant in the classroom.  Sometimes I attend classes just to help lead activities and participate in whatever the students are learning that day, and other times I am asked to prepare a specific presentation or “workshop” to lead myself.  I work with 4 professors, each of which has 3 classes, and so I only go to certain classes each week because otherwise it would be impossible for me to attend every class.  So actually my schedule changes from week to week, based on which classes my professors ask me to attend or when I have a language or cultural workshop scheduled in advance.

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In Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

One very positive experience I have enjoyed so far has been my development of a “pronunciation workshop” that I have created for the English classes here at UFMG.  It is basically a 2-hour interactive presentation about English phonetics and pronunciation, mixed in with lots of participation from the students, explaining and practicing tons of sounds and words that can be difficult for Brazilians speaking English.  I have done this 2-hour workshop about 15 times this semester in many different English classes, constantly modifying it as I think of better materials or examples, so this has been a major project for me and I have gotten great feedback from both students and professors.  As a result, I have also started weekly informal meetings for students to show up and practice their conversation and pronunciation with me, and yesterday I had a workshop proposal approved to share my pronunciation materials with all the other American Fulbrighters here in Brazil when we get together in Sao Paulo for our mid-year conference/seminar in July.  Out of more than 70 ETAs in Brazil, only 12 workshop proposals were approved for our midyear conference, so this was a huge feeling of accomplishment after all the work I have done this semester on teaching pronunciation!  Obviously pronunciation is not the only thing I work with here — I and the other two ETAs in Belo Horizonte have also done presentations and activities about American sports, American music, American food, university life in the U.S., competitive debating, among other cool topics.

At this point there is less than a month left before the first semester ends and we head to Sao Paulo for the mid-year conference in July.  Afterward I will have 2 weeks of vacation to see some new parts of Brazil, and then I get back to Belo Horizonte for my final 3.5 months at the start of August! I will keep you updated on the next chapter of my time here!

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Posted by on Dec 16, 2015 in South America, Teaching | 0 comments

My Fulbright App: Going Back to Brazil

My Fulbright App: Going Back to Brazil

Fulbright for me was something that all happened rather quickly.  In the summer before my senior year, I returned from 5 months studying abroad in Florianópolis, Brazil, without a clear idea of what I wanted to do a year later after graduating.  I was an international studies major, I knew I had at least a vague interest in working abroad, but I also had ideas of going to graduate school.  It was actually in the first couple weeks of classes last fall, when I overheard one of my friends talking about his plans to apply for a Fulbright grant to teach English, that I started thinking about Fulbright seriously for the first time.  Once I did more research and discovered that the application deadline was just a couple weeks away, I quickly got in touch with the wonderful Dr. Beverly Hawk, attended one of her useful information sessions in BB Comer, met with her 1-on-1 in her office, and quickly got working on the application.

Teaching English in some fashion had always been a dream of mine, so I knew I wanted to apply for an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant instead of a study or research grant.  So for me, deciding the country was really the main choice to be made.  I loved my semester in Brazil, I had even done a little bit of volunteer English teaching in Brazil before coming back home, and I had devoted significant time and effort to learn Portuguese.  So did I want to continue following my interest in Brazil by teaching English there through Fulbright, or did I want to see another part of the world and go to a different country for a different experience?  In the end I decided to apply for Brazil, knowing that my background would make me far more competitive for a grant there than anywhere else, and feeling confident that I already loved the country and its culture.

Dr. Hawk guided me excellently through my application process, and then the final piece was the interview here on campus, in order to be recommended by UA to the national committee.  Although I was nervous going in, it turned out to be quite enjoyable – the UA interview committee just wanted to get a better feel for me as a person and as an applicant, so that they could help me show myself as best as possible.  I was also able to ask my own questions to get a better picture of how Fulbright works and what its mission is all about.  It wasn’t long before I knew that Fulbright was far and away my main dream for post-graduation, so during the next several months, I just waited anxiously and excitedly to find out the result.  In January I found out I had made the final cut, and in March I found out I was offered a grant.  The feeling of relief, triumph, and anxious excitement was incredible.

Having graduated in May, I am now working at UA in both the Education Abroad office and as a Portuguese language trainer in the Critical Languages Center, through the end of the fall semester.  I leave for Brazil with Fulbright in mid-February, where I will remain through the middle or end of November (a 9-month grant).  Now the next major piece of news will be my specific placement and location!  While the variation between possible destinations is almost endless, considering that Brazil is the 6th largest country in the world, I really cannot wait to get started wherever I end up!

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