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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 139 | October 11 , 2009|


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My Fulbright Jottings

I hope I will not leave a bad taste in your mouth when you have finished reading these jottings. What do we usually do when we see a ray of hope waiting to contour into reality! My life has just experienced the fulfillment of one of my dreams. Sorry, my esteemed readers for I've been toiling with your minds still.

And the subject of my happiness is that I am writing all this while attending orientation classes for a Fulbright nine-month program inside a state of the art conference hall of Syracuse University of New York, USA.Earlier I along with all the FLTAs selected for the year 2009- 2010 had spent a couple of days at Jackson State University, (JSU) Mississippi. At Syracuse University, (SU) I am appointed as an FLTA for the academic year of 2009-2010.

I saw the advertisement for this Fulbright nine month program in a local newspaper at least a month back before the dead line of submitting my papers. When I first went through the advert, my first impression was oh! My Allah! It is such a huge task. I would have to compose at least five long essays and prepare some documents to qualify only to get short-listed. Initially I took two weeks to decide should I apply or not. Then getting done with other official documents took almost another week. Then I had only seven days left at my hand to complete the write-ups. Anyway, when I was able to finish my write up, I had already reached the deadline for the submission. Just to add some more drama to the scene, on that very day, throughout the country, submarine cable connection collapsed. After trying at least more than a dozen cyber cafes in the town when I was finally able to submit the papers online, it was late at night.

A tremendous amount of stress surmounted my being as I prepared my official documents on an emergency basis. I had a hope that even if at the last moment, I would be able to complete my task. I also submitted the hardcopies on the very last date. So, for me it was all 'a last moment hyper tension drama.'

Within a week, a very unforgettable surprise came when I got a phone call from the American cultural centre to face an interview for the FLTA. Then after a few days I was called for another interview. I made it through for both the test. My last barrier was to get a required TOEFL score and quite dramatically again, I got a 103 degree fever and extreme coughing on the day of the exam. And finally after all those moments of worrying and anxiety, on a very lonely afternoon, Shaheen Apa, the cultural specialist of American centre of Dhaka phoned me and added the sweetest surprise to the drama informing me that finally I had been selected and Syracuse University is my host institution. I am certain, you have had many examples of such glamorous events in your life. Now, I can proudly tell you that trying until the last moment is actually what it all matters to achieve something wonderful in life. That will take you so long that you can't even imagine. So, here is a piece of advice for you, Play hard ball and write your own ticket.

And finally the day came. I got on board a plane. After an incredible two day journey including amazingly inedible food and nearly an 18 hour layover in more than 4 different airports, I along with Tuhin Shuvra Sen, another FLTA and a faculty of English Department of Chittagong University finally reached a very scenic campus of Jackson state university which is one of the host institutions for this year's FLTAs. My heartiest thanks to Patricia Jernigan, Assistant Dean of International studies and Ms. Eleanor Wendell, Program Officer for FLTAs for organizing the warmest possible reception. In the next few days, we went through a beautiful ride in the river Mississippi, a wonderful visit to historical Vicksburg national and of course a five day orientation schedule based on different themes such as curriculum development and teaching techniques, language pedagogy, do's and don'ts for an FLTA. etc. This time, the Fulbright language teaching assistant program has become pretty big as well as dynamic covering 416 students from 49 countries for teaching 311 languages placed at 250 plus educational institutions and universities in 48 states of U.S. Professional growth, cultural enrichment and building a bridge across the nations through language learning are some of the mottos of Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant Program.

After five days I started off for Syracuse University leaving my fellow FLTAs to set off for their own host institution. Another warm as well as very cordial reception awaited me at Syracuse, which began with a weeklong orientation in the gorgeous SU campus. Nisha Gupta who is an Assistant director of Professional Development Programs of the graduate school had been a powerhouse throughout the orientation days. She was assisted by a bunch of robust, young and smart SU teaching fellows and TAs who were just “born to help others”. The interactive and informative orientation classes introduced us with the intercultural perspectives of the U.S education system, teaching environments in the U.S classrooms, strategies to build up effective intercultural communication, subtleties of American way of using English language, ways to face the some of the challenges regarding culture shock while maintaining a duel goal of fulfilling the requirement of a student as well as a TA. My supervisor Margo A. Sampson- the way she has handled all the logistics for me is just superb and has made me grateful to her forever.

After getting selected for this Fulbright grant, the most asked question was (perhaps it was rather a confirmed assertion made by other people about me) that I would live in the U.S. for good and would never come back. They then began telling me how happy and proud they were about me that I have got such luck that I am able to leave the country. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself at their thoughts. Actually one of the many conditions that are associated with Fulbright is that we must return to our own countries when the study period is over. Not only that we have to stay at our home countries at least for the next two years so that we can utilize our expertise. What is most pathetic is that most of the educated people in Bangladesh are now trying to find a permanent place in a western country. It's true that we do not have what many developed countries have. And definitely we the Bangladeshis will go abroad to pursue higher education. But that should never lead to leaving the country for good. Perhaps I am becoming a bit sentimental about this. But trust me; one statement has actually underlined the reason why Bangladesh is still in the league of poor countries. In one of the orientation classes, a professor was saying that the originality of American nation lies in the fact that they believe that doing leads to achievement. Every individual here at U.S contributes to build their nation every single moment. They don't plan to leave the country. Probably that makes a difference!

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