Fulbright Stories: Connecting the Dots
Nadina C. NICOLICI, Romania
Teacher of English
Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program (FTEA)
Media Literacy Cohort
Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, USA
September – October 2019
Since I returned home, in November 2019, I have been trying to connect the dots, and by connecting the dots I mean the knowledge, information and ideas I got while attending the Fulbright program at Kent State University. While sojourning in Kent, Ohio for the six-week Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement program, Media Literacy Cohort, I also came to know people at a personal and professional level.
In life in general, and in my professional life in particular, I have always dreamed big, and when I have a dream, I do everything in my power to see it come true. One such dream is “Confident Teacher, Well-off Community”, a program sponsored by US Embassy Romania, which started on November 14, 2020 and which will last till June 2021. What is special about this program is that it is aimed at connecting 21 teachers of English as a foreign language who work in schools located in villages and small towns in the region where I live. Through this program, I will enable them to find out about the latest teaching tools, methods and techniques used for effective instruction. I also want them to know that, even if they may think and feel overwhelmed, there is always a way to find support in a network of other professionals within the field.
To provide a good training to these teachers and share with them knowledge, experience, and good practices, I decided to involve international teachers from all over the world. I met these outstanding teachers on various programs I attended. They are very well trained, resourceful, and willing to share ideas. Two of these teachers, one from Indonesia (Dewi Susilawati) and the other one from Mexico (Xohiktza Avendano), were introduced to me during a virtual panel I was invited to speak at in October 2020. The panel was organized by the Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education, in the College of Education Health and Human Services at Kent State University. The goal was to share with the audience how the COVID-19 pandemic affected and impacted the way teaching and learning are carried on in our different countries. While listening to them during the panel, I was very impressed with their expertise and willingness to share, and I decided to invite them as guest speakers and trainers during two of the sessions of the training program for teachers in my country.
I know that being an educator has never been easy, all the more now, during the peculiar times we all live. Yet, I have always believed in the power of the word connection, and by it, I mean cascading knowledge, learning from each other, sharing, and coming up with the best solutions. I firmly believe that the future of this world is in the hands of educators, no matter where they live and work. In terms of sharing what I have learned about media literacy at Kent State University during the Fulbright TEA program, I have acted as a speaker at different international conferences mainly, Global Education Conference (November 2019), META Republic of Moldova (September 2020), and very soon, ELTA Serbia (December 2020).
Upon my return from the US experience, I was selected to be a member of the Fulbrighter Advisory Board (2020/2021), the online networking platform for Fulbright alumni and grantees, managed by representatives from the US-UK Fulbright Commission and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) in the US. One of my responsibilities in such a position is to advise and support the new Fulbright grantees. Below is a piece of advice that I wrote to the Fulbright grantees to help them better prepare for their international experience, get the most out of it and make lasting impact when they come home.
“My advice to you now, when you are to take the first step of a momentous experience, is connect the dots! I mean your past, present, and future. Let me explain! Your past: share your experience, tell people about you, about your place, the dreams, hopes, and achievements you carry around. Your present: listen carefully and actively to the people you meet (colleagues, professors, mentors, guides, people you meet randomly). Be curious, don’t be afraid to ask and answer questions, explore, see things from different perspectives, learn and share. Your future: collaborate and cooperate with people like you, think about your mission, your goals, the people who trust and value you, people who know you can make a difference. Think about how your experience acquired during this one-of-a-kind journey can make the world, your world, a better place. The dots… they are there, waiting for you to connect them. Good luck!"