A Comprehensive Tip List: Applying for a Fulbright ETA

Applying for a Fulbright is a big decision and a long process, but it is well worth it in the end due to the growth you will experience during the application process and for the chance to represent your country and teach abroad.

Since being awarded a Fulbright ETA (English Teaching Award) for the Czech Republic earlier this year, I’ve received a few messages from friends who plan to apply and have questions. Thus, I’ve decided to put together a comprehensive post with my best tips! If you would like more specific advice, I would be happy to answer more questions via email or in the comment section. I would also like to emphasize that by no means am I an expert! I can only share from my personal experience. Please utilize the resources at your university and consult anyone and everyone to give yourself the best shot at an award possible.

An overview: WHAT IS FULBRIGHT?

For those who may be unfamiliar, Fulbright describes itself as follows: 

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs.  A candidate will submit a Statement of Grant Purpose defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside the U.S. During their grants, Fulbrighters will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.  The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding.

The Fulbright ETA (English Teaching Assistant) program is one of several Fulbright programs. The ETA grant places individuals in countries around the world (typically in smaller towns) to teach English language at the elementary, secondary, and university level. Other programs include opportunities to complete a Masters degree abroad or to conduct research.

Starting Research

Perhaps the most difficult part of starting one’s application is that individuals may only apply to ONE country. For the purpose of this post, I will be focusing on my ETA application. 

Before you choose a country, do research! Asking yourself the hard questions early will ensure that when actually writing your essays, your passion for the country comes through. Although I knew very little about the Czech Republic when I started doing research, I was able to better sell why I was a good fit for the country after keeping up with current news and researching their education system.


A snapshot of my visit to Prague in the spring of 2017

Questions to consider as you research:

  • What are you looking for in your experience? What countries appeal to you and why?
    • Start crossing some countries off the list. I crossed off countries that had a language requirement and that did not have high school placements to begin narrowing it down.
  • Why do you want to go to these countries?
  • What can you offer these countries? 
  • How do your skills and experiences make you a good fit specifically?
  • What is the education system like the country you are considering? 

If you can’t answer all of these questions at first, that’s okay! Continue to do research and find a country that is a great fit for you. 

Once you have an idea of what countries may suit you, use the resources and staff at your university in the scholarships office to narrow it down. 

The essays

  • Start by focusing on paragraphs/elements instead of the essay as a whole
    • At first, the two essays (Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statement) seem similar and the 1-page limit is tough! To avoid getting overwhelmed, start by focusing on experiences that will make you shine and piece write paragraphs about each experience. Your university and other advisors can help you pick your best moments later. 
    • Piece writing paragraphs will also help you from overemphasizing on length when you’re starting out. You’ll be able to edit it down on the end
  • Ask for advice from everyone 
    • In the end, you’ll have spent so much time with these essays that you’ll be sick of them. Ask various friends to read for different things. Have a non-education friend look for jargon and have another look for sentence clarity. Set up times each week for feedback so that your application continues to progress even when you want to rip it apart.
    • I also suggest saving each version as you edit so that you can go back and re-insert something if you’ve deleted it
  • Tie your points of emphasis back to the country for which you are applying 
    • For every experience that you write about, find a way to tie it back to your country. Did you help manage a group of volunteers at your university? Did you conduct undergrad research? Do you plan to go to grad school one day? Have you visited the country that you are applying for? Good!! How will this experience inform what you are going to do once you have received the Fulbright award? 
    • Be specific! What specific teaching experiences do you have that you can use when you receive Fulbright?
    • Each sentence in your application should be something that only you could say.

Short answer 

The short answers may have been the most challenging portion of the whole application for me. They are SO short and I couldn’t figure out how to make an entire point that concisely. I would recommend writing your essays first and then identifying gaps or areas that you would like to emphasize in the short answer portion. It’s okay to reiterate points in your essay that you’d like your readers to remember.

Recommenders 

  • Ask them early!
  • Pick recommenders who have seen you operate in a specific setting and then let them know why you are requesting a letter from them. I asked my 3 recommenders to each focus on a different aspect. I asked my research mentor focus on my ability to work independently and complete research, my academic mentor to talk about my cross cultural competence in a teaching setting, and a supervisor from an international job I held to talk about my flexibility and teaching experience in Ecuador.

The Interview 

All Fulbright applications require an interview at your university. The Fulbright Commission requires this because of the large number of Fulbright applications that they receive. Your university will decide whether or not to “recommend” you, and then you will move on to the first stage of the process. Some countries require additional interviews, but the Czech Republic only required an interview with Elon’s faculty and staff. Later, after I had been awarded semi-finalist status, I also completed a 5 question short answer questionnaire that I received via email from the Czech Republic and returned to the country commission. Key takeaway: every country is a bit different so research online to find out your country’s specific process. 

My INTERVIEW tips:

  • Don’t stress too much about the interview. Let your research knowledge and passion for your country shine through. Your university wants to know that you are prepared and will represent your school and your country well as a Fulbrighter.
  • Practice your answers with friends and be prepared for questions based on what you wrote in your essays.
  • If you have a questionnaire or interview with your country, really think about what you want out of the experience. For example, in my questionnaire, I had to specify what type of school placement I wanted and what type of town I wanted to be placed in using my past experiences to emphasize why I thought I would be a good fit for the country. It is important to say what you want in the application and not just focus on what you think the commission wants to hear.
After several months and many hours of work, here’s my tired moment of accomplishment!

Waiting

Second only to choosing a country to apply to, waiting months to hear back from the commission really tested my patience. I kept myself busy by applying to fun summer programs, joining Fulbright chatrooms on Reddit and an app called Slack, and generally reminding myself that I had plenty of other opportunities. While applying for Fulbright is a long process, a lot of good comes from it even if you aren’t accepted. You’ll work with awesome mentors and friends crafting the application, think deeply about your future goals and plans, and create documents that you can borrow from when writing cover letters and other job applications.

If you’ve applied to Fulbright, what other tips and recommendations do you have? Leave your tips or your questions as a comment! To keep up with my Fulbright journey (I leave in just 3 weeks on August 22nd!), follow me at: 

Instagram: Tastetravelteach_
Twitter: Courtintheclass
Facebook: CourtneyTasteTravelTeach

Fulbright

Postgrad Feelings & Fear of the Unknown

In late elementary school, I began one of my favorite summer traditions — attending summer camp at His Hill Ranch Camp in Comfort, Texas.

Years later, I even wrote my college application essays about my camp experiences at His Hill choosing to respond to the prompt, “What is your favorite place in the world and why?”

I loved everything about His Hill. I loved meeting other kids and staying in a cabin, doing outdoor activities like canoeing and zip lining, and having camp counselors who came from places all over the world.

A classic last day of camp activity

At His Hill, participating in activities that scared us emphasized the need to overcome innate fear and have trust in something greater than ourselves. We catapulted through the air on a wooden contraption called the “Screamer,” went mountain biking and cave exploring, and fell backwards off of a trust fall at “Low Elements.” Each summer, I became more comfortable with being uncomfortable and my faith and confidence grew.

Although my understanding of the world has shifted in ways and become more complex, the lessons that I learned at His Hill undoubtedly remain an integral part of my personal beliefs.

In big moments and big decisions, like booking my plane ticket to the Czech Republic or deciding to go to college far away, I choose to lean back on the trust fall once again, knowing I’ll land in the arms of those who love me.

While I’ve learned to use the mix of excitement and nervousness that come with big decisions, it’s the moments that seem small and are in-between that challenge me. A self-professed lover of organization and routine, I strain to envision my day to day life will look like in a new place, and am sometimes frustrated when I realize that I won’t really know until I’m there.

To combat the chaos of life and the unknown, I sometimes spend too much time trying to control the little things. I wonder what the next stage will look like. I worry about losing touch with those close to me or forgetting moments that are important to me. I am scared of life passing me by and wondering why I didn’t take the chance to do something great. Going to the Czech Republic doesn’t scare me in itself, but all of the unknowns do.

For me, moments of bravery are less about big decisions, but are beneath the surface in the little ones. I am brave when I let myself rest. I am brave when I take a step back and focus on the important things and the people that matter the most. (Luckily, they help put things in better perspective for me!).

Graduating brings so many crazy and new and exciting moments. This week, I start my training as a Duke University Summer Academy TA. I will be TA’ing 3 courses – a 3 week business course, a 1 week STEM camp, and a 3 week leadership course. I’m incredibly excited to live in Durham over the summer and take advantage of new places to explore and new people to meet. But, of course, I’ve found myself overthinking about what my time there will look like.

I’m currently reading a non-fiction work by Rebecca Solnit about activism called, “Hope in the Dark,” a gift from one of my favorite Elon professors. As I move to new places and step into the unknown, I’m comforted by Solnit’s words: “To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.” She reminds us that the future (and the dark) are always unpredictable. Yet, we must go anyway and things will be okay!

To post-grad life and gambling for hope! We got this 🙂

Reflections

“Will the World Ever Learn?” Elon student commencement address 2019

Back in late February of 2019, I co-hosted Elon’s first Elon English Language Teaching Symposium on campus. At the event, I delivered a short presentation to our 100 attendees and felt nervous beforehand. 100 people is a large crowd! After the Symposium ended, a professor asked if he could nominate me to speak at graduation for the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education Ceremony. I was shocked, humbled, and honored. I had just spoken to 100 people, and now I’d be preparing for thousands?! I slept on it, and told him “yes!” shortly after. A few weeks later, I received the news that I had been chosen.

I would like to share the text of my speech with all of you. Thank you to Dr. Jeff Carpenter and Dr. Kim Pyne for being my wonderful speech coaches. Thank you to Dean Ann Bullock, the Dean of the School of Education for supporting me throughout this process!

“Will the World Ever Learn?” Elon student commencement address 2019

Hey y’all! Welcome all to graduation and a big welcome to my fellow graduates. Thank you to the families who have traveled from near and far, and to the professors, friends, and supporters who have encouraged us and cheered us on every step of the way. My name is Courtney Kobos and I am a Texas native, an Elon English and education major, and a future teacher. Like many of you, some pinnacle moments of my Elon experience include traveling, researching, and teaching. And as a teacher, and in classic Elon style, I’m going to ask us to reflect together on our Elon experiences one more time.

Last semester, I began an internship teaching 10th graders at a nearby school. As a class, we read texts about injustice from the Holocaust to Sandy Hook. One was Elie Wiesel’s speech to the United Nations commemorating the Holocaust. The speech concludes with the famous lines: “We must be engaged, we must reject indifference as an option. Indifference always helps the aggressor, never his victims. But will the world ever learn?” During the class activity that followed, a student pulled me aside. Pointing at that final line, she looked at me, concern etched across her face, and whispered the same question Wiesel asks us. “Ms. Kobos, do you think the world will ever learn?” As a teacher, I get asked dozens of questions a day and I can’t say that I’m able to remember them all. However, this unexpected heartfelt question and the student’s worried tone continue to echo in my mind.

In pondering this, I was reminded of a memory from the summer before. I have titled this story, “That time I accidentally signed myself up to run an Ecuadorian 5K.” Let me tell you about my host mom, Maria Jose. Maria Jose is a force to be reckoned with. She selflessly gives her time and love to many in her community, including her kids, her school, and the volunteers who work at the summer camp she founded. Maria Jose also bravely battles two types of cancer and trains for races in the midst of chemo. So, when a colleague asked me if I’d like to go cheer her on during an evening 5k, I gladly agreed. I showed up at her door at 8pm dressed in street clothes, ready to be the loudest “gringa” there. She took one look at me and asked, “What are you wearing? Mihija, you can’t run in that. We’re late, so go get changed into your race clothes!” I panicked. I could not say no to Maria Jose, but running is not my thing–just ask my family here in the crowd. But, I had no choice. I had apparently agreed to run in the race, not just be part of the cheering section. 20 minutes later, we arrived at the trail and approached a group of serious runners decked out in running tights and headlamps. And then, there was me: an outsider wearing skinny jeans, using the flashlight on my phone, and dragging myself up that hill wondering how in the world I ended up there, and trying to swallow my pride when I was the last one to make it to the top. In reflecting on moments like this one, that have pushed me outside of my comfort zone and have forced me to learn and grow — I started to formulate an answer to my student’s question. In order to fully support Maria Jose, I had to run the race alongside her. Standing by and cheering from the sidelines was not enough.

When I returned to Elon, I immediately dove in to another one of the most enriching and uncomfortable periods in my undergraduate career — conducting research. I was awarded the Elon Leadership Prize, which funds students trying to tackle large scale national problems in their communities. My project focused on improving the schooling experience locally for English language learners and building capacity in the education system to better support underserved children. Who was I to take on this broad and nearly unsolvable issue? For a while, I had moments daily where I doubted myself and wondered why I was chosen for this award. But, if I could survive that crazy 5K run up the side of an Ecuadorian mountain, maybe I would accomplish this project the same way — by embracing discomfort and placing myself in the action. Through showing up and doing the work alongside many others, I had the opportunity to see the difference between having knowledge for the sake of knowledge and using knowledge collaboratively to influence local change. Oftentimes, we are told that if we just work together we can change the world. But, I believe that in addition to working together, we also must individually commit, take responsibility, and be daring.

I stand here confidently today, looking out at you, my fellow 2019 graduates. We have now completed our time at Elon. We have taken dozens of classes, met students from across the United States and the world, and have gained knowledge about our future careers and about our passions. I realize now, from my experiences teaching, traveling, and researching, that support from the sidelines is not what the world needs. We must be in the thick of the action and outside of our comfort zones. Just like on that dusty trail in Ecuador, we must put ourselves in the race, even if we are the very last ones to make it to the top, and sometimes even if we didn’t intend on signing up for the race to begin with. We must each choose to fight the tendency to stay on the sidelines, because we have the power to reject indifference.

So, class of 2019, I bring my student’s question back to all of us. “Will the world ever learn?” Can we take the knowledge that we have acquired during our time at Elon and use it to get off the sidelines? Can we push against our natural inclination to be indifferent? Can we get to the top of that hill, not alone, but together? Can we? The answers to these questions are ever evolving. With every step and every choice, no matter our majors, our career paths, or our life journeys, we can demonstrate that the world can learn.

Thank you Mom and Dad, family, friends, and Elon for all of your love and support!

Uncategorized

Cotopaxi, Active Volcano Visit

Good stories typically don’t begin with food poisoning, but this one does.

For the WorldTeach Ecuador End of Service trip, our cohort visited the cities of Mindo, Otavalo, Quito, and Cotopaxi. I knew that all of the cities were going to be amazing, but I was especially excited to visit Cotopaxi National Park, home to a huge active stratovolcano that all Ecuadorians adore as a landmark of their home country.

The volcano is located between Riobamba and Quito and acts as a landmark for those traveling between. The beauty of Cotopaxi does not transfer in photos. It is huge and snowcapped and is in stark contrast to the nearly barren landscape around it, dark and scrubby with bushes thanks to previous volcanic eruptions. Even Ecuadorians take every opportunity to stop and photograph the mountain — a phenomenon I witnessed twice while traveling with members of my community.

Unfortunately, on our last night in Otavalo, I made a bad impromptu decision to order fish at a restaurant, and knew pretty much instantly that I was a goner. I spent the long bus ride to Quito drinking water mixed with a Pedialyte packet and willing myself not to be sick. During our one day in Quito, I rested and willed my body to recover so that I could enjoy our very last trip as a cohort.

In typical style, the journey from Quito to Cotopaxi was not as straightforward as a foreigner might expect. Our WorldTeach directors had scheduled a van to drive our group, 6 volunteers and 2 directors, to our hostel. We met outside our hostel, Secret Garden Quito, early in the morning with our things packed. For sake of space, the driver strapped most of our backpacks to the roof of the van. As I was one of our members least likely to feel carsick on a typical basis, I sat in the back of the van. The journey was bumpy and windy and I tried my best to stare straight forward and breathe deeply. I had hardly eaten in 48 hours, but I still felt awful.

About halfway to Cotopaxi, our driver randomly pulled onto the side of the road and we saw 2 backpackers running towards our van. Confused, our director asked the driver why we were picking up more people when we had booked a private van. The backpackers soon piled in and we sent more of our belongings to be slung up on top of the vehicle. Space was now tight, but we embraced the moment and began chatting with the couple who had joined us. Soon after, we began off-road and spent about 45 minutes bouncing and jolting down a rocky dirt road towards our hostel — seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

I think that the only places we passed in that 45 minutes of off-roading were a couple lone farms and a passing truck or two. Somehow, I managed to contain my sickness and we pulled up at the Secret Garden Quito’s brother hostel, the Secret Garden Cotopaxi.

The Secret Garden Cotopaxi is like no other hostel I’ve ever experienced before. It consists of several buildings spread across a hill and looks as if it would belong in Alice in Wonderland or The Hobbit, which makes sense as some of the rooms are built to embody Hobbit holes. In the center of the small spread of buildings is the communal cabin located directly behind sprouting gardens and two large trampolines. On either side of the central building are cabins that house large groups with bunk-beds. Further up on the hill, visitors can find composting toilets and hot tubs covered by greenhouse roofs. Check out the drone footage video of the hobbit holes, housing, and Cotopaxi and prepare to be amazed.

Upon arrival, the entire hostel staff greeted us out front near the garden and helped unload our belongings into our shared cabin. We then entered the central communal building, passing through a bright sunroom filled with colorful hanging hammocks, giant bean bags, and 5 or so lounging dogs on our way to the main room. We plopped down on sofas and the staff began to welcome us and explain the daily happenings of the Secret Garden.

Included in your stay at the hostel is a guided waterfall hike the afternoon of your arrival, home cooked meals that suit dietary restrictions, and roaming access to the property. The hostel also offers excursions for guided horseback riding tours, a Cotopaxi summit, various hikes in the area, and a visit to the national park. Since our stay was a short one, we opted for the horseback riding tour.

In addition to a couple of permanent staff members, the Secret Garden Cotopaxi is run by employees who work for their room and board. I was fascinated by their stories. Many of the employees visited the hostel as guests and later decided to return to work for 3-4 weeks. However, nearly all of the staff that I chatted with had long outstayed their original plans. Some had even been there for 3-5 months and changed travel plans or job plans to stay and work for longer.

Their joy was palpable and I was intrigued by their lifestyle. After all, there is absolutely nothing in the vicinity of the hostel except for the surrounding mountains. They shared stories about the opportunity that the hostel provides to complete unplug due to their lack of wifi, the guests that they were able to meet, and about time spent exploring outdoors that the location provides.

For meal time, staff and guests alike gather at one large table in the communal center and talk over delicious homemade food. In the evening, guests and staff stay up talking, relaxing by the fire, playing card games, or enjoying a drink. I felt as though I was experiencing something really special surrounded by an international community of travelers. You had no choice but to experience the moment fully with no phones or internet and no where else nearby to rush off to.

Although I had to miss out on the waterfall hike due to my food poisoning, I was able to recover enough to join in for the horseback riding tour. Again, I was struck by contrast between the looming volcano, Cotopaxi, and the surrounding barren landscape. I don’t know how to exactly describe the landscape because I’ve never seen anything like it. I assume that after lava wiped some of the surrounding land, mosses and small plants began to grow. Today, the land is covered mostly by clumpy tufty grasses and small shrubs. It is also quite cold!

Cotopaxi was breathtaking from all angles and our 3-hour ride provided plenty of opportunities to stare and wonder. Moving uphill and crossing over small streams, I galloped on a horse for the first time and held on for dear life. I chatted with those on horseback around me and took moments to reflect on all that I had done during my 8 weeks in Ecuador. It was only fitting for the trip to end with another big step outside of my comfort zone. On our final leg of the journey I pushed through food poisoning, reflected on close friendships built over the course of the summer and got to know strangers over shared meals. I packed toilet paper in my backpack in case of emergency, I went faster on a horse than I would have thought I could, and I said goodbye to new friends not knowing when I would see them next.

My volunteer cohort


I understand now how visitors of the Secret Garden turn into short term employees who turn into long term family. It is hard not to experience this same feeling of aching to stay when you’re laying on one of the trampolines in the crisp air gazing at the stars witnessing Cotopaxi’s snow-topped beauty. I’m still not sure if the bravest choice is choosing to stay or having the guts to say goodbye.

Many of the photos in this post were taken by my fellow volunteer member and friend, Rachael Ferguson. Thank you for the amazing photos, Rachael!

The post above does not reflect the viewpoints of the WorldTeach organization or of the United States government.

 


Ecuador

Things to do in Burlington & Beyond

Elon students, and Burlington residents, this one is for you! In a small town like Burlington, it can feel like you’ve already done everything that there is to do. While at Elon I’ve scoured Trip Advisor and pages of date suggestions, but good comprehensive lists are few and far between.

So, I decided to compile my own — you’re welcome in advance. Save this post so that when you’re looking for a fun new place to try with your friends or a significant other, you don’t have to repeat the same old typical Saturday night plans. Get your bucket list ready!

I’ve split my suggestions into two main categories “Burlington” (under 25-minute minutes from campus) and “Beyond” (Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, etc). Within those categories, my favorites are split into: Outdoors, Fun activities, Culture, & 21+


Burlington

Outdoors

Haw River Trail (Shallow Ford) 

IMG_0651.jpgThe Haw River Trail is Elon's closest
real trail to campus. If you're in
need of a perfect start to your
weekend, head over with a friend.
There's also a great wooden platform
for yoga!
Saxapahaw Island Park & trails 
57505535689__5A79DF84-E236-4B93-870E-5362E10F3983-1.jpg 
Saxapahaw is an adorable town 25 min.
from campus. Eat lunch at the general
store and then do some exploring.
Cedarock Park
196D912F-87E7-4CF4-ADC7-99A71884752D.jpgCedarock Park is a 414-acre nature 
preserve and historic farm. You'll
find lots of families exploring
and can say hi to some adorable
farm animals.
Guilford Mackintosh Park 
 IMG_2844.jpgJust a couple of exits past Target,
Macintosh is a hidden gem. There are
several short trails, a lake, and
great picnic tables. I love to pack
a lunch and eat near the water.

Food

  • Colombian Cravings
    Located near Harris Teeter, this latin restaruant is a recent
    favorite of mine. Order a juice and prepare for savory
    meat and huge portions.
  • Da Vinci’s Table 
    IMG_7296.jpgA classic Italian birthday spot.
    Da Vinci's is a great place
    to take your visiting family 
    or get away for a date night.
  • Red Bowl 
    Red Bowl is a personal favorite of mine and has a great patio.
    
    Pro tip: go for the lunch specials for a much cheaper total 
    bill.
  • The Park 
    The Park always hits the spot on weekend mornings. It offers
    southern breakfast and diner-style food.
  • Catrinas Tequila and Taco Bar 
    Catrinas is located in Mebane and should not be judged by
    its outer appearance. It may be in a strip mall, but 
    prepare to be wowed by the tacos and wait staff.
  • The Verdict on the Square 
    Located in downtown Graham, The Verdict is the perfect place
    to grab a burger and a beer before you explore the town.
  • Saxpahaw General Store 
    IMG_2461.jpg
    As mentioned above, Saxpahaw is a 
    town you shouldn't miss. Eat at the
    general store where ingredients are
    locally sourced. Beer and drinks
    are available in the store and can
    be consumed on the porch. Check out
    more to do in Saxpahaw here.
    
    
  • Harrison's 
    Harrison's is a sandwich spot next to Harris Teeter that I 
    never noticed until recently. It's cheap, it's good, and the
    inside is cute and comfortable.

Fun activities

Fifth Street Books 
IMG_7567.jpgFifth Street Books is a warehouse in Mebane
with stacks and stacks of books for all ages
(and a live-in cat!) The organization is 
crazy, so spend an afternoon exploring
and picking out some new titles. 

Pro tip: Books are 
extremely cheap and they offer .50 book sales,
so keep up to date with their Facebook page.
Filament Coffee and Tea, Mebane 
If you have to do homework on a Saturday, Filament is the perfect
place to do it at. The atmosphere quietly buzzes in the 
background and the coffee is fabulous.

21+

  • Burlington Beer Works
    IMG_2689.jpgIt's finally open! Go visit Burlington's 
    new brewery in downtown Burlington right 
    next to The Blend coffeeshop. They offer 
    dinner, snacks, flights, and lots on tap
    for $5.
  • Cork and Cow
    IMG_9691.jpgI rarely suggest this place to people 
    sincepart of it's charm is that few 
    students go, but since I'm graduating,
    I guess it's okay! Cork and Cow is my 
    favorite spot to curl up with a book
    or do some evening work. They have 
    cheese plates, a large variety of wine
    and beer, and a perfect porch for a 
    casual afternoon.
  • Red Oak Brewery
    3F36AAE0-870F-458B-A685-2A34FC0FCDC7.jpgRed Oak's new lagerhaus is large and 
    impressive. They have stacks of games
    available to play and do weekly music
    trivia. On the weekends, there are 
    typically food trucks outside.
    
    Pro tip: You can also order pizza or food
    to the venue.
  • Piedmont Ale House 
    Piedmont is only 5 minutes from campus and has a great variety
    of pub food and drinks.
    
    Pro-tip: Go on a Thursday evening for half-price appetizers. 
    Every Thursday Piedmont features a local beer for $3-5. You
    also get to keep the glass!
  • Smokehouse at Steve's
    I didn't know that I needed Smokehouse at Steve's in my life, 
    but I absolutely did. Recently opened, Smokehouse at Steve's 
    offers huge portions of meats and your traditional BBQ sides
    and has a bar station with a large variety of sauces. Whether
    you're from Texas, Tennessee, or North Carolina, you're going
    to be impressed with Steve's.
    
    Pro tip: Steve's is also connected to its counterpart butchershop
    and local market, so if you're looking to stock up on things,
    you can kill two birds with one stone.

Beyond Burlington

Outdoors

  • Eno Quarry, Durham 
    A classic spot! Visit in the spring or fall and bring your
    swimsuit.
  • N.C. Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill
    IMG_0739.jpgI was amazed by the size of this 
    botanical garden all available for
    free to the public. Spend an 
    afternoon exploring the garden. There
    are also additional walking/biking
    trails attached to the property.
    
    Pro tip: There are free tours on the
    weekends, so look at their site in 
    advance if you're interested.
  • Duke Gardens
    Duke's campus itself is worth seeing, and their gardens are 
    impressive and free to visit. When you're in Durham, spend 
    an hour or two wandering campus and taking photos in the 
    gardens.
  • Umstead State Park, Durham 
    Umstead offers a ton of activities from fishing to boating,
    rock climbing, and paddling, so check out their site to plan
    a visit.
  • Conservators Center
                            
    IMG_5439.jpg
    The Conservators center is approx.
    30 minutes from campus and definitely
    worth a visit. The center homes many
    animals who needed a better home for
    various reasons. Tours must be booked
    in advance and are relatively 
    inexpensive.

Food

  • Dashi, Durham 
    IMG_3147.jpgGreat ramen, wonderful aesthetic,
    delicious food and drinks.
  • The Pit, Durham 
    If you haven't tried North Carolina BBQ yet, this is the perfect
    place to do it! The Pit is a bit dressier, so it's great for
    a special night out or a date night. Boxcar Arcade and several
    other bars are just down the street.
  • Gonza Tacos y Tequila, Durham 
    IMG_2558.jpgGonza is another great choice for a 
    celebratory dinner or special night 
    out. The tequila list is extensive
    and can be personalized in dozens
    of ways. Make a reservation if you
    plan to visit on a weekend.
  • Hops Burger Bar, Greensboro 
    Hops doesn't accept reservations, so prepare to wait. That being 
    said, your wait will be worth it. Their burgers are huge and 
    the atmosphere is fun. They also serve Cheesecakes by Alex if 
    you're still hungry afterwards.
  • Crafted The Art of the Taco, Greensboro 
    Crafted is a fun place to go for lunch or dinner in Greensboro.
    It's located right downtown so plan for a day of exploring and
    try a bunch of unique tacos when you're feeling hungry.
  • I Love Pho, Greensboro
    While I wish that there were more pho and ramen options near 
    campus, I Love Pho makes the drive worth it. It is also 
    located in a strip mall, so don't let that deter you. The bowls
    are huge and so delicious you'll want to go back.
  • Don Ishiyaki & Ramen, Greensboro 
    In my opinion, the best thing on Don Ishiyaki's menu is the 
    bibimbap. It comes piping hot in a stone bowl and is delicious.
    After the meal, Don Ishiyaki serves complementary ice cream.
  • Yogurt Pump, Chapel Hill 
    If you're exploring Chapel Hill on a hot day, you must stop at 
    the Yogurt Pump. It is tucked away on a back alley, so look 
    closely!
  • Morgan Street Food Hall, Raleigh 
    Morgan Street Food Hall recently opened and is the perfect place
    to reminisce on your days exploring European food markets abroad.
    It gets crowded on the weekend, but is full of a large variety 
    of cuisines and has seating indoors and outdoors.
  • Bella Monica, Raleigh 
    Bella Monica is a well-known Italian restaruant in Raleigh 
    perfect for a romantic date night. Make a reservation in advance!

Fun activities

  • International Civil Rights Center & Museum, Greensboro
    Learn more local North Carolina history by visiting the 
    International Civil Rights Center & Museum. The galleries
    are thought-provoking and engaging for learners of all ages.
  • Scuppernong Books, Greensboro 
    Support your local bookstores! Scuppernong is adorable and 
    located downtown. Check it out as you do your shopping and 
    pick up a new book or two :) they also have a small cafe with
    beer and wine, as well as regular events.
  • Explore downtown Chapel Hill 
    Need I say more? The town is beautiful and you really just 
    can't go wrong.
  • See a show at the PNC arena in Raleigh
    IMG_1697.jpgPNC arena offers a variety of regular
    shows and concerts. I recently saw
    Trevor Noah's comedy and show and
    would love an opportunity to visit
    Raleigh again!
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh 
    IMG_1681.jpgLooking for a free thing to do on an 
    afternoon? Visit the NC Museum of 
    Natural Sciences. Plan for at least an
    hour or two to visit, as the site is 
    huge. There are interactive centers
    on every floor and plenty to do for
    all ages.
  • NC Museum of Art, Raleigh
    IMG_1731.jpgThe NC Museum of Art has several 
    permanent free exhibitions ranging
    from modern art to classic European
    exhibits.
    
    They also have rotating ticketed 
    exhibits so check their site for 
    upcoming events and exhibitions.
  • Book a cheap Airbnb for one night 
    If you liked several of the things on the list and want to 
    make a weekend staycation trip out of my suggestions, I 
    reccomend using Airbnb! Airbnb has many rooms in Durham and 
    Raleigh for less than $40 a night. Share a room with a 
    friend and spend a weekend away from campus. Many hikes and 
    museums are free, so using Airbnb provides an economical way
    to see a new city.
  • Eden Movie Drive-In (Eden, NC)
    IMG_8777.jpgEden Movie Drive-In is the furthest 
    activity on this list, but makes for a
    fun friends-night-out. Located on the 
    Virginia/NC border, Eden Movie Drive
    often shows double-headers and is 
    inexpensive.

21+

  • NC World of Beer, Raleigh
    802889A2-4425-472E-8E5C-2DEF7EBBE57C.jpgThe World of Beer site describes
    themselves as a "Hangout featuring 500+ 
    global beers, lots of craft drafts & 
    tavern food in pub digs with TVs." Explore
    3 floors of beer including a rooftop or 
    choose to sit outdoors. You'll want to 
    look online at their beer list or use the 
    Untappd app to make your drink selections,
    as their offerings change daily.
  • Boxcar Bar + Arcade, Greensboro/Durham
    IMG_0858.jpg
    Boxcar Bar and Arcade is a fun spot for 
    a double date or group outing. 
    Reminisce on your childhood while you
    play Pacman or play Dance Dance 
    Revolution.
  • Unscripted Hotel Pool & Bar, Durham 
    E872F24B-B62E-40E6-B4DC-B9A5A2220376.jpg
    The Unscripted Hotel is a small boutique 
    hotel located in the heart of Downtown,
    Durham. The rooftop pool and bar are 
    public access and boast a great view of 
    the city. The pool is small, but the 
    weekend DJ and fun vibe makes it worth a
    trip. The food is pricey, so consider 
                           stopping by before or after dinner for 
                           a drink and swim.
  • Pour Taproom, Durham
    Pour is the only place on this list that I haven't personally 
    been, but I felt as though I must include it since it's 
    attached to the Unscripted Hotel and I've heard great things 
    from friends. At Pour, you pour your own beer and pay by the
    ounce by tapping a wristband at the tap.

Have anything to add to this list? Where are your favorite places in Burlington and beyond? Leave a comment and let me know! Happy adventuring 🙂 

United States

Lessons in Leadership – My Undergrad Research Experience

 

Lessons in leadership

Today I gave my very last presentation of my undergraduate career at Elon University SURF Day (Student Undergraduate Research Forum). Woo! After giving dozens of presentations in my classes throughout my time at Elon and a handful of presentations about my larger inquiry project, it’s bittersweet knowing that this part of my academic career is at its conclusion.

However, although my time at Elon is coming to an end, undertaking a large 2-year project has taught me many lessons about myself and leadership. My project has sparked my interest in subjects that I hope to continue pursuing for the rest of my career.

Undergraduate inquiry challenges, frustrates, and ultimately grows individuals to become lifelong learners. I know that I am a better teacher, leader, and person thanks to the Leadership Prize.

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My mentor, Dr. Jennifer Eidum, and I presenting at NCTE in Houston, Texas

An overview of my journey

Sophomore year, the Elon University Teaching Fellows introduced a new requirement for Teaching Fellows: an inquiry project. This requirement mandated that each Teaching Fellow complete a project during the Fall and/or Spring of their junior year. When this project was first introduced, I knew that I wanted my project to have an impact on my community. Therefore, I began searching for a mentor early during the fall of my sophomore year before I went abroad.

That semester, I had just completed Dr. Jennifer Eidum’s TESOL class (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I had always had an interest in working with diverse learners, teaching speakers of other languages, and had considered teaching abroad, but it was this class that truly sparked my interest.

For the TESOL class, I spent approximately 30 hours volunteering at the Greensboro Newcomers Center and tutoring recent immigrants from northern Africa at an after-school program. Through spending time at the Newcomers Center and other experiences in the Alamance Burlington School District, I began to see the need for systematic improvements and increased teacher training to adapt to the growing immigrant and English learning population in North Carolina.

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Working with ELLs abroad

Dr. Eidum and I quickly connected before I went abroad and were excited about collaborating on a project, but had a barrier to getting started as I was headed abroad to Oxford, England in the spring of my sophomore year. In Oxford, thanks to TESOL class and experience at the Newcomers center, I was asked by my placement site at a local high school to work specifically with their English language learners in each student’s general education classes.

A Comparative Education class in Oxford allowed me to conduct a small-scale research project through which I sent out an email survey to each teacher that I worked with asking them questions about working with English language learners at the school. This project provided a foundation and further cultivated my interest in figuring out ways to better support English language learners.

 

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Studying abroad in Oxford, England during the Spring of my sophomore year

 

Applying for the Leadership Prize

When I arrived back at Elon the fall of my junior year, Dr. Eidum and I discussed the various challenges and barriers that I would face as an undergraduate student trying to do research about English language learners. For example, it is very challenging to interview and work directly with students under the age of 18. Additionally, as a student, I do not have the expertise or the funding to tell teachers what to do or to make large scale change by increasing salaries or budgets.

We decided to apply for the Elon University Leadership Prize (a $10,000 grant that funds problem-solving research) as a way to address a large problem: the increasing amount of immigrants and English language learners moving to the state of North Carolina and to the Alamance Burlington area that is unsupported through funding, teacher training, and teacher pay. Our task as researchers was to find a way in which to support our community using our funding and time not as experts, but as organizers and supporters.

 

Three key lessons in leadership

 

  1. Gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge versus gaining knowledge for change

When I first started my research project, I thought that the research was all about reading books, sending out surveys, and conducting interviews. While these are all important parts of the research process, my leadership prize process focused on taking the results of my study and analyzing the implications in order to do something in order to address the problem.

The knowledge that I gained from reading about English language learners and the school system not only informs how I move in my classroom and the decisions I make but has inspired me to work with my community to make a broader impact. I am so excited to share that there is a space booked for next year for what will be the second Elon English Language Teaching Symposium with plans for the event to become either annual or biannual.

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2) Ask for help early and often

About halfway through my project when I began planning the symposium and working on project implementation, my anxiety was the worst that it has ever been in college. I was having trouble sleeping and I felt like I was never truly resting. I took a lot of big steps during that semester, which all involved asking for help in some way.

Firstly, I started attending therapy sessions at Elon’s counseling center and learned important outlets and coping strategies for dealing with anxiety. Secondly, I asked my parents to split the cost of a yoga membership, which changed the way I felt about myself and exercise. Thirdly, I started asking for help around campus. I learned to reach out to professors, other students, and even the Dean of Education to solicit advice for my project.

While I had heard before that the research project isn’t linear, this was the semester that I gained an insight into what that meant. Together, with the help of many others, I was able to move forward, both in my project and in my mental health.

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3) It’s not about you

Midway through my project when I was feeling the pressure, I was worried about what other people would think about me if my project failed. Ultimately, I can now recognize that the project’s whole purpose was to bring together people and to share stories and I shouldn’t have been so focused on myself. If you haven’t seen Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” go watch it right now.

The most rewarding outcome from my research was hearing that one of my Elon peers was invited to share her Symposium presentation at a professional development training at a local middle school. She spoke to over 30 educators and shared her presentation titled, “The Immigrant Experience: Supporting Students in Their Educational Journey.” I am proud of the work I have done over the last 2 years not only because of the data I have collected and the presentations I have given but also because of the stories that have been shared and the conversations that have been had as a result of the work.

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This project was made possible by the generous support of the Leadership Prize, Elon Teaching Fellows, Department of English, and Global Neighborhood, with grants from Elon’s Fund for Excellence, and the Intellectual Climate committee. Thank you! 

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If you have any questions about my project, please feel free to email me or reach out on the contact section of this blog! Read more about my project and Leadership Prize grant here and more about the Symposium (pre-event) here and (post-event) here.

 

 

 

 

Reflections Research teaching

A Stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet – La Cascada Del Amor

As my senior year comes to a close and graduation draws nearer and nearer, I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the things that I have done over the past 4 years at Elon. While at Elon, I’ve accomplished things and gone places that my high school self would have never imagined. I’ve (almost) successfully completed student teaching, I’ve studied abroad not once but twice, I was awarded a research grant that allowed me to create and co-host the first ever Elon English Language Teaching Symposium, and I’ve met friends and professors who have encouraged me and mentored me through every step of the way. Thus, I’ve decided that I want to start writing again, particularly about things that I have experienced in the past 4 years, in order to process and to share.

A family member recently asked me if I will be scared to leave for a whole year in August when my Fulbright grant in the Czech Republic begins. I thought about it for a second. While I know that there will be moments of homesickness, of loneliness, or uncertainty, I would not say that I am afraid. The thing that I fear the most is missing out on opportunities because the fear of discomfort stopped me from taking a chance.

When I think about the moments that have stretched me, that have pushed me, and that have changed me, I realize that they all involve moments of discomfort or moments of challenge. Living in Ecuador during the summer of 2018 constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone. Each moment, big or small, held a sense of adventure and was so different from my previous experiences abroad. From learning to communicate in Spanish, to teaching at a summer camp, to constantly adjusting to the culture of always being late, I am proud to say that my time in Ecuador made me more flexible, more adaptable, and more considerate of others.

By the end of the trip, I could see the change in myself. I was more confident and had a newfound ability to take things in stride. I had gotten over food poisoning (twice!), taught students ages 5-15 and grappled with the language barrier, spent 8 weeks with no data plan, walked a mile just to print out my teaching materials for the week, and had trained myself to throw all toilet paper into the trash can. I felt like I could do anything. Which is why, on the End of Service trip, I decided to say yes to spending a day with strangers (sorry, Mom!).

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One of our final destinations as a WorldTeach volunteer cohort was the city of Mindo, Ecuador. Mindo is located to the north west of Quito in the Andes mountains and has a population of around 3,000 people. It is also a cloud forest, one of the rarest types of climates in the world, in which the rainfall is heavy and condenses and floats near the trees because of currents and the mountains. In other words, the city of Mindo is a small jungle paradise with amazing biodiversity around the corner at every turn.

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On our first full day in Mindo, the other volunteers and I took the plunge into the cold Mindo river for a tubing expedition. When I hear tubing, I think of lazy rivers and pulling a cooler float alongside. We were in for a shock when we found out that we’d have a guide with us on our tubing adventure. Think white water rafting, but in connected tubes. We bumped our way down the rocky river, getting splashed with freezing cold water and laughing at the unexpected fear of being catapulted down the river backwards.

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When we got out, the drivers of the tubing company took some photos of our group, and through asking them to share the photos, we ended up becoming friends and meeting for drinks that night. We salsa danced, learned more about the town of Mindo, and I got a chance to practice my beginner Spanish. They invited us out the next day to show us around town and on a whim, we said yes. I should preface this story by explaining that Mindo is extremely safe, and was definitely the safest place that I visited in Ecuador. It is a small community where everyone knows each other and people walk around the streets chatting and visiting. Even at night, we were able to walk around comfortably (which we did not do in Quito or in other towns like Riobamba where I lived).

Our new friends picked us up in their white pickup truck, and we soon learned that they used the truck for a taxi service around Mindo, especially around tourist seasons. I found it humorous that the truck had no “taxi” label at all. The driver simply stuck a white piece of computer paper in the windshield that read “taxi” when it was in service. (This should give you an idea of how small the town was). Luckily, my friend Emma spoke better Spanish than I do, so she helped to translate our conversations when necessary. Our new friends asked us if they could take us to one of their favorite local spots, a nearby waterfall called the Cascada Del Amor. We stopped on the way there at one of their favorite local cheese shops, and when we arrived at the waterfall, we were the only ones there. It was a short rocky hike to the waterfall’s opening – a crisp clear round blue pool with a medium sized waterfall as the backdrop. We stripped to our swimwear and dove straight in. I’ve loved the water since I was a little girl, and I wasted no time paddling to the waterfall side of the pool and climbing up the rocks to sit in the stream.

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There’s something so wonderful about discovering a new place when there are no tourists there. As I spoke with our new friends in choppy Spanish, I felt strangely at home as we swam and learned about each other’s lives.

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After our swim, our new friends explained that on the other side of the river, there was a resort where one of their friends worked as a server. They explained that if we wanted, we could go check it out and have a snack and dance some before heading back home. When we drove to the resort, I began to grow a bit alarmed. We were winding down dirt roads in the middle of the cloud forest. If I thought Mindo was a small town, this was even smaller. There were no signs of civilization in the area and we had been driving further away from the main road for about 10 minutes. Emma and I whispered to each other in English. Maybe we should just ask them to go home? Finally, we pulled up at a huge all-white building with a circular blue dome roof. I breathed a sigh of relief and we entered the main gate of the premises.

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The owner of the resort later explained to us that they only recently opened with the goal of attracting more tourists to this remote area of the country. The resort has a pool, a hot tub, a sauna, a dance floor, and many of the modern amenities that you would find in a hotel in the United States (which was not the case at the hostels we stayed at!). It was a memorable night spent swimming and dancing with other hotel guests and learning about the struggles to find work that many locals find in the area, especially during the seasons that are not tourist peaks. For example, our friend the taxi-driver has to leave his home and go to Quito for several months of each year to make money to send back to his family. Saying yes throughout my time in Ecuador allowed me to make new friends, see new places, and learn much more of the language and culture. After all, the other volunteers I traveled with also began as strangers!

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Break outside the norm

At home, we tend to get stuck in our groups and our experiences without taking a chance. Comfort can encourage us to stick to the same routine. However, I believe that adventure can be found in little ways like trying a new restaurant, visiting a place in your own city that you’ve always wanted to go, or making a new friend and letting them teach you something. While you should always follow your gut instinct and learn strategies to stay safe in any country or area you are in, it is also important to not let the fear of trying something new stop you from making a friend, taking a new job, or spending time doing something that you’re passionate about.

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