“Many of us enter our year as ETAs thinking primarily about ourselves. I’ve learned that my role is
to serve those around me and to work alongside community members in whatever ways I can be helpful.
I need to consider their needs and not my own lofty aspirations.”
Rebekah Chung is a 2018 graduate from The College of New Jersey who majored in Urban Education. She received a Fulbright Grant as an English Teaching Assistant in Vietnam for the 2018-2019 academic year. Rebekah shared with us some of her experiences since arriving in Vietnam.
What has been your favorite part about living in Vietnam?
I have been met with a warm welcome to my province, and have had many kind people enter my life, such as my college students that help me get the things I need or randomly stop by my room to give me bananas, families that have taken me in and fed me, teachers that I can laugh with, and friends from training that have become my emotional supports. [They all] have given me so much to be grateful for…I have become indebted to so many.
How has Fulbright supported you?
Members of the Fulbright office in Vietnam visited me to see that all my living and work conditions were up to par…Even the small things, such as my desire to learn how to cook Vietnamese food, have been expressed by the Fulbright team to my host contacts on my behalf. Most of all, their presence during their visit gave me a fresh sense of security and support that I really appreciated.
Fulbright has been thoughtful in preparing us prior to our transition into our provinces. From mock lessons in different schools outside of Hanoi to meetings with our host representatives prior to our send-off, we have been prepped as much as possible.
Can you share with us one memorable moment of your experience thus far?
One memorable moment was after my first college lesson, a lesson that lasted almost two hours. Several hours had passed when I received messages from students politely telling me that they could not understand what I was saying in class. To this I burst out laughing. This moment was a challenge because I realized that the way I taught was no sufficient enough for my students. Yet, it was also a reward in that I felt motivated to become a better teacher for my students.
How do classrooms in Vietnam different from those in the USA?
The physical space of the classrooms reveals a difference in teaching styles. In the United States, we see varying forms of seating, but group seating can be found in many classrooms. This arrangement suggests that students are meant to talk and interact with one another throughout the lesson. Specifically in the classrooms that I teach in, the students are seated in two-person tables that all face the front in rows. The focus is on the teacher, who stands in front and teaches by the board.