Two weeks ago, I attended a four-day orientation for the Fulbright program in Washington, D.C. The orientation really helped me to shift my mind from Honduras to the work I will do in Vietnam. It seems like most people have heard about Fulbrights, but no one really knows what it is. Here’s some information about the Fulbright program and some more thoughts as I prepare to leave on a 30-hour journey to my new home in Hanoi.
The Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching program is one of thousands of Fulbright programs. This program started in 2009. There are 45 U.S. teachers going to 13 countries, and 20 international teachers who arrived just before our orientation. They will spend a semester at the University of Indiana. Fulbrights are also offered to students, university faculty, artists, international scholars and more.
I am the second teacher going to Vietnam in this program. The first, Libby, an art teacher from a small town in Ohio, went last fall with her husband and four children. She taught at the same school I will be at. She attended the orientation and has been an invaluable resource for me.
This program is administered by the International Institute of Education (IIE). They do everything from the application process to arranging international host schools and millions other details. Three women at IIE are responsible for the Fulbright DAT program. They have been my contact since the start of the application process last September and have answered dozens of questions for me. They are also dealing with all of the other teachers involved in the program, including international teachers, teachers currently overseas, alumni who have projects to complete, new teachers who are applying, and all of the host institutions overseas including U.S. embassies, universities and local schools. They always respond promptly to all questions and encourage us to contact them at any time. I do not know when they sleep.
The US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs funds this program as well as many others. IIE works closely with them and follows the guidelines set by the State Department. Several officials from the State Department attended the orientation and explained many of the details involving the history, funding and purpose of exchange programs. We were told that there is broad support for Fulbright programs in Congress.
Thank you to all of you U.S. taxpayers – your tax dollars are making this possible! I will receive a stipend from IIE to cover living expenses in Vietnam, as well as a round trip flight.
The Fulbright program is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. It was started just after WWII by Senator Fulbright and all programs share the same purpose: “to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”
Fulbright alumni include 54 Nobel Prize winners, 88 Pulitzer Prize awardees, 29 MacArthur Foundation Awards grantees, recipients of 16 U.S. Presidential Medals of Freedom. . . . and just regular people like me!
I will be responsible for three main goals while in Vietnam:
- Teach. Work with students and teachers. Visit schools, teach lessons related to my project, teach about American culture and schools, provide workshops for teachers.
- Research. I plan on researching ways to connect my students to Vietnamese culture and vice versa. One way will be through a poetry project involving Vietnamese and U.S. poetry.
- Learn. Take a graduate course related to my project, learn about teaching and education in Vietnam, attend workshops.
At the end of my program, I will need to publish a curriculum guide based on my research. Next year, I will teach a unit based on my project, continue to set up connections between schools in the U.S. and Vietnam, and promote my project through workshops, articles, blog posts, etc. As many of the alumni told us at the orientation, the time overseas is just the beginning of a long journey.
Of the 45 U.S. teachers in this year’s program, seven of us are heading overseas in the next couple of weeks. The rest are leaving during the second semester of the school year. They will be going to Mexico, Chile, the U.K., Finland, the Netherlands, Palestinian Territories, Morocco, Botswana, India, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand.
I am now completely overwhelmed. More on that in the next post.