Two Stonehill students were recently awarded prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships, which offer new college graduates the opportunity to teach English in over 140 countries.
Award winner Alina Shklyarenko ’17 (right) will be heading to Germany to teach English to students there while Elise Cavanaugh ’18 will be teaching students in Taiwan.
In preparing strong, successful applications, both Fulbright recipients were mentored through the competitive process by the Associate Provost for Academic Achievement Craig Kelley and the Director of the Stonehill Service Corps Kris Silva who partner to identify and advise students on nationally prestigious scholarships, fellowships and awards and then mentor them through the process.
Below we share Shklyarenko's statement, which traces how her immigrant background shaped her approach to languages and to pedagogy.
When I was five years old, my mother showed me an alphabet book with Russian letters and left me alone to play with it. Within a few hours, she overheard me stringing syllables together and sounding out words. That day marked the start of my journey to learning different languages.
Learning Russian, Ukrainian, English, German and French has enabled me to gain a greater awareness of the history, culture and mentality of different countries all around the world. The deepest and most meaningful understanding has come from conversations with locals in their native tongue and reading classic works in their original form.
Despite my enthusiasm for the study of foreign languages, my experience of learning English as a Ukrainian immigrant at the age of 9 was challenging in many ways. The inability to fully express myself in my first language, Russian, initially filled me with self-doubt and frustration. I felt a lack of confidence when I needed more time to complete an assignment because I didn’t understand the vocabulary. This feeling motivated me to work harder in my ESL classes in order to succeed academically and have the language skills to foster stronger relationships with my peers.
I was once reminded of the challenges ESL students face when I worked on a project at Stonehill College. A professor and I tackled translating from Russian to English a portion of Alexander Blok’s poem, “Retribution,” from Russian into English, which had not been done before. I was challenged to think creatively and make the judgement of choosing the most appropriate words in English to convey the same meaning.
My task was demanding because it required me to transfer the message of a 20th century symbolist Russian poet into modern day English without losing the feeling of the poem. This experience made me aware of the relationship that a language has with a nation’s history, values and customs.
Although I’ve lived most of my life in the United States, my Ukrainian background and the immigration process have altered my perception of the world in a very meaningful way. At a young age, my understanding of cultural norms and beliefs was challenged by a completely new environment. In elementary school, I worked on smoothly integrating myself into the American society without forgetting my roots. As a result of this experience, I have developed a multicultural identity and a more well-rounded approach to foreign cultures.
Furthermore, my identity confusion during the developmental years helped me develop empathy and compassion towards preteens and young adults. I decided to start my career working as a vocational counselor at a therapeutic school for adolescents with mental health needs. This opportunity to support students with exploring their interests and developing job-related skills solidified my plans to attend graduate school and earn a master’s degree in School Psychology.
At this point in my professional development, I am applying to the Fulbright ETA Program because it will allow me to share my enthusiasm for language learning and my multicultural perspective in an environment in which I feel confident working.
I would be able to use both my Psychology and Foreign Languages degree and gain invaluable teaching experience abroad. During my time in Germany, I would learn more about their unique education system and examination process.
By comparing and contrasting German pedagogy with the American education system, enhancing my critical thinking skills, and gaining this unique perspective on culture and education, I will be better prepared to pursue a master’s degree in school psychology.
To read Elise Cavanaugh’s statement, visit here.