Throughout my teaching career in Russia, I was often asked by my students if I had ever been to an English-speaking country. I was able to say “yes” to my students because I was one of the few people in Russia who has.
In Russia not many people travel outside the country, although things are slowly changing. When I received a Fulbright scholarship to Montclair State University, I proved to everyone I knew and myself that my dreams of being a teacher could come true.
During my first days at Montclair State, I felt a bit overwhelmed. I was not used to such a spacious campus and seeing so many different people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Hearing the language I had been teaching for five years being spoken in different accents was new.
After awhile, Montclair State really started feeling like home. My experience came alive with the help of fellow Fulbrighters and friends from Afghanistan, Montenegro, Papua New Guinea and Russia. The Student Center Cafe was always filled with meals and heart-to-heart conversations.
Apart from learning more about English, I was lucky to embrace my amour for the French language. I would go to Au Bon Pain and speak French with an incredibly patient colleague from France. I also interviewed people of different nations and backgrounds for a project that explored the differences between native and non-native speakers of English and language learners’ identities. What really amazed me was how willing people were to volunteer their time to participate.
Being a visiting researcher in the Linguistics Department gave me the opportunity to learn more about the research culture here in the U.S., which is quite different from the one in Russia.
At the same, I was offered enough independence and flexibility while writing my proposal and consequently proceeded to recruit participants for my “human subject research.”
I felt really lucky to have received continuous support and advice from my supervisor and other colleagues. I now have a better understanding of what it is like to conduct research and collect data in the U.S.
It has been amazing to experience all of this at Montclair State. I have seen the campus embraced by shades of yellow in the fall, covered with snow at Christmas time, and finally blossoming and welcoming in spring.
Looking back, I would not have changed anything about my trip. It has helped my professional, social and personal growth. I have now been to an English-speaking country, but thanks to that I have been around the world as well. Thanks. Merci. Grazie. Danke. Hvala. مننه. Спасибо.