Recent Graduate Receives Fulbright Award to Teach English in Cyprus
Christiana Metaxas, '16
Majors: Linguistics and French Language & Literature
Article Written By: Brendan Zarkower '17
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a nationally competitive, fully funded fellowship that provides recent graduates and graduate students the opportunity to travel abroad to a foreign country to study, conduct research or teach English as a foreign language. Christiana Metaxas, who graduated from Binghamton in May 2016 with a double-major in French and linguistics, is currently serving as an English Teaching Assistant at a high school in Cyprus through the program.
Originally from Katonah, New York, Christiana was an impressive undergraduate student at Binghamton University. Among other activities, she was a tour guide for the Admissions Department, a Discovery Advisor and the president of the Hellenic Society, a Greek heritage and culture organization. She is participating in the Fulbright Program to immerse herself in a new, yet familiar place.
“I wanted to go to Cyprus because it is both familiar and foreign to me,” Christiana said.
Cyprus and Greece share many similarities in culture, language and common history. Currently, nearly half of Cyprus is occupied by Turkish forces and the country is, in effect, split into two. Christiana is living and working on the Greek-majority southwestern portion of the island.
As an American of Greek heritage, Christiana’s Greek language skills are vital to her success in Cyprus. Because of her interest and experience in linguistics, she enjoys learning the intricacies of the Cypriot dialect and accent and comparing them to the Greek that she learned at home.
“One of my favorite things about being here is listening to the language, taking mental observations. I had an idea of how Cypriot Greek sounded before I came here because I had been once before. But after I had been around for a month, I had picked up on most of the pronunciations. I’m also beginning to pick up on a lot of Cypriot words, which are so unique” Christiana said.
Even though she arrived in Cyprus only two months ago, Christiana has already established a social network in the country.
“Since I’ve come here I’ve joined a Greek dance troupe,” Christiana said. “We do traditional Greek dances from Cyprus and other Greek regions. It’s really a lot of fun.”
She said that the most memorable moment of her experience so far came about during her first days with the dance troupe.
“My first week here, they invited me to join them on a trip up to a village in the mountains near Nicosia [the capital of Cyprus],” Christiana said. “The village was called Klirou. There were festivities going on the entire day. We were able to walk around as people opened up their homes and were selling homemade bread with olives baked into it and other food like that. And at night, all sorts of dance groups performed in traditional clothing.”
Christiana said that she has already learned a great deal about the country since she has been there. For example, she did not expect to hear as much English being spoken on the island as she has encountered with the local population.
“I didn’t totally know about the extent of the British influence on the country,” Christiana said. “I have learned that it is totally normal for two Cypriots to be speaking in Greek but to be supplementing their conversation with English.”
Adjusting to a new home in a different country is never easy, and her first weeks in Cyprus presented her with new challenges she had not anticipated.
“It’s tough to find housing while starting work and having to adapt to a new culture all at once,” Christiana said. “It all happened in a different order than expected, but ended up working out for the best.”
Now, two months into her Fulbright experience, Christiana already feels more confident in her temporary home. She will continue her work as an English Teaching Assistant in a high school in Limassol, the island's port city on the southern coast, until summer 2017. She said that a key component of her experience has been the welcoming warmth of the people of Cyprus.
“Something that was great during the first month I was here was the overwhelming hospitality of the all the Cypriots,” Christiana said. “Everyone has been so hospitable and so welcoming.”