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Graduate student receives Fulbright grant to conduct teach English in Côte d'Ivoire


Rachel Nader Fulbright

Article Written By: Elyssa Diamond '18

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. Erin Riggs, a PhD candidate in anthropology at Binghamton University, was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Student Grant and is currently conducting research in India.

Rachel Nader '17 is spending her first year post-graduation teaching English in Ivory Coast as a Fulbright Scholarship recipient. Nader, a Harpur College graduate who double majored in linguistics and French language and linguistics, and had a minor in education, saw Fulbright as an opportunity to apply her diverse coursework in a professional setting.

"I knew I was interested in teaching English abroad after graduation. It combines my main academic interests: linguistics and education," she said. "I wanted to do the Fulbright program since I felt it was the program that placed the most emphasis on meaningful exchanges that leave a lasting impact on the host country and the Americans who participate."

Nader chose to complete her Fulbright in West Africa because she wanted to be in a country where she could speak French and she was interested in the history of the region.

"I chose Côte d'Ivoire because I was interested in going to West Africa after having been involved in West African dance and learning about some of those cultures through friends from Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire at the summer camp I work at," she said. "I'm also interested in countries with a history of colonialism and the resulting sociolinguistic situations in those countries."

Fulbright was not Nader's first experience living abroad in a French-speaking country. As an undergraduate, she spent a winter term and a full semester studying in France. Although she is fluent in French, she said that, at first, she had difficulty understanding the dialect that the locals in Côte d'Ivoire speak.

"Imagine if all your life you had learned American English and then you went to Scotland," she said. "If you're a native speaker, you can understand, but as a non-native speaker, and you're not used to that accent, it's a little bit of a shock."

As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, Nader splits her professional time between teaching in a public high school and working for the U.S. embassy. At the school, she creates lesson plans for and teaches 12 English classes a week and she is the advisor for an English club. She says that trying to balance the local culture with American standards of education provides an interesting challenge.

"The educational system is just totally different, so it's hard to work within the curriculum and still have an American touch, which is what they want," Nader said. "They don't want me to give lectures. They want me to give American style, dynamic lessons. So it's like, how am I going to engage 50 students with just a chalkboard and chalk?"

At the embassy, Nader takes on several roles. Her two main responsibilities are working for an office called Education U.S.A., which advises students who want to pursue higher education in the United States, and teaching English classes for adults in the Andrew Young Center, but her job does not stop there.

"I do a variety of things with the embassy; whatever they want or ask me to do," she said. "For instance, last week I got to interview people to go on an exchange program to the U.S."

Although Nader has plenty of jobs to keep her busy, she says that she still has time to enjoy herself. She joined an ultimate frisbee league and has made many local friends.

"People here are very welcoming and very easy to befriend and they invite you to their homes," she said. "I've been to already two weddings, which is more weddings than I've been to in the US in the past year."

While Nader isn't positive about what her next step is professionally, she said that Fulbright gave her some clarity regarding her long term career goals. At the beginning of her nine-month program, Nader thought that she eventually wanted to become a professor of linguistics, but now she is more interested in public affairs.

"I didn't know I'd be so interested in the diplomacy and public affairs piece of it," Nader said. "[Fulbright has] given me a good sense of direction. I think I would be interested in working as a diplomat one day, going into the foreign service. It's something I'm considering now that I definitely never considered before."

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Last Updated: 5/2/18