Terese Warn, WSU alum - Step out of your comfort zone and see the world from a different perspective
"In 2019, I traveled to Brazil for the first time. While it wasn’t my first time leaving the country or having contact with a new language—I studied abroad in Ecuador when I was an undergraduate—it was my first time in Brazil, and my first time really having contact with the Portuguese language. All I can say is, I fell in love.
As soon as I came home, I found a tutor online and started studying Portuguese. I also did some research and found out more about the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) program. The Fulbright Student program is open to any applicants who have completed a master’s or bachelor’s degree in the past 5 years. The Brazil program is unique in that the ETAs are placed in university settings. So, all of our students are adults compared to other ETA programs that work exclusively with children.
Each ETA placement in Brazil looks a little different. Our job is to spend about 25 hours per week working as English Teaching Assistants for professors of English language students, and another 5 hours per week developing a side project that can be based on anything related to our own interest. My side project was participating as a research assistant on a project related to best practices for teaching English to students with learning disabilities.
I chose to use my English teaching time to develop creative writing workshops. I rotate between different class levels, presenting the workshop series and correcting the students' written assignments. In addition, I host an all-levels English conversation club once per week, where my students play games to practice their English. Finally, my Co-ETA and I have organized monthly English events at our university, where we do fun activities like English movie nights, potlucks, and board game nights.
This experience has really helped me to grow professionally. Having the opportunity to work in a university classroom, and to engage in research, and project organization has allowed me to improve my teaching and management skills. I have been able to further develop my cultural awareness, by not only learning more about new cultures, but challenging my own biases and beliefs about what is normal or expected. My time in Brazil has taught me a lot about how to adapt to different work environments, relationships to work culture, and working practices. Sometimes, our way of doing things, might not always be the best way to do things.
Of course, this experience has not been without its challenges. There have been difficulties with getting proper documentation, transportation, and having access to health care. I really miss having a carpeted home and living in a temperature-controlled apartment, but these costs greatly outweighed the benefits. I think having these challenges has helped raise my awareness about the experiences of immigrants and others who have to start a new life in a new country. It is when we step out of our comfort zone that we learn the most and really get to see the world from another perspective."
-Terese Warn, Wayne State alumna, Fulbright in Maringá, Paraná, Brazil 2022