BINGHAMTON GRADUATE CARRYING OUT FULBRIGHT TEACHING ASSISTANTSHIP IN TURKEY
Fulbright Recipient: Lauren Ross-Hixson
Hometown: Johnsonville, NY
Class of 2014
Lauren Ross-Hixson graduated from Binghamton University in Spring 2014 with a degree in Anthropology. She is a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant and is currently teaching at Hitit University in Corum, Turkey.
Iranian, Kazakh, Azerbaijani, teachers, mothers, engineers, nurses and more. This was the diverse classroom that Lauren found herself standing in front of on her first day teaching in Turkey. She is an English teacher at a continuing education institution where courses are open to the public, not just university students. "I can remember feeling quite intimidated," Lauren spoke of her initial experience there. But, these feelings quickly dissipated as individuals in the classroom shared about their lives, cultures and traditions: topics that were enjoyed by both Lauren and her students. Lauren realized in retrospect how her prior experiences had already equipped her with the necessary skills to excel in this environment.
Anthropology has intrigued Lauren since her freshman year of college. "I was eager to learn about how people live around the world --what gives them meaning in their lives, and how our cultures are similar or different." Her first courses in the subject were Japanese Cinema and Introduction to Social Anthropology. The topics from the two classes complemented each other perfectly and broadened her analytical prowess regarding human conditions. She continued to explore different angles of Anthropology studies. Toward the latter end of her academic journey at Binghamton, she began to focus on Anthropology and Global Public Health. She focused on the notion that "Culturally specific beliefs may influence an individual's perception of their health or methods of treating illness." Lauren further explored this phenomenon in her honors thesis on cultural acceptance of assisted reproductive technologies in Muslim societies.
Lauren's academic interests were supplemented by her internship with the Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP) during her senior year. As the development intern for the organization, Lauren reached out to local businesses in order to fundraise and plan for STAP's auction event called the Cause for Celebration Gala. She also researched and developed a training curriculum for STAP's Buddy Program, which pairs HIV positive clients with long-term volunteers. "The impact a small agency like STAP has on the Binghamton community is really impressive." Lauren was amazed by the passion and commitment of the employees and reflects on the experience as a reaffirmation to her interest in public health and her desire to work for a non-profit.
During college, Lauren became acquainted with many Turkish friends and attended events from the Turkish Cultural Association at Binghamton University during her freshman year. Impressed by the traditions and warmth of the students there, Lauren decided to learned more about Turkey by taking a course on Turkish language and culture. This course solidified her interest in the country, so she studied abroad there during her junior year. Her time in Istanbul had been limited, so she sought out another opportunity that would allow her to return, and the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship was the perfect answer.
Her study abroad experience in Istanbul cushioned her return to Turkey, as she settled in Corum this time. For Lauren, Turkey has yet to lose its charm. "Turkey has a beautiful coastline, along the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean." It's mountainous while also desert-like in certain places. Hospitality exudes from the country. People are warm and welcoming, generally curious of her status as a foreigner. She was surprised to find how friendly and trusting the people are; friendships are formed easily through an exchange of conversations.
Corum is somewhat conservative when compared to Istanbul. She is one of three Americans in the city and the level of English is very low, making language a challenge. However, Lauren is taking Turkish and practicing with her Turkish roommate, also an English instructor at Hitit University. Lauren likes her living situation because she shares many commonalities with her roommate. Amongst their activities together, Lauren's been most pleased with learning Turkish recipes and playing music together.
Lauren sees the upcoming months of her Fulbright as full of possibilities. In the classroom, she hopes to continue to learn and laugh together with her students while motivating them to learn English. She is also looking to travel to some cities on the Black Sea coast like Trabzon and Rize, as well as Gaziantep, a city in southeastern Turkey known for some of the best food in Turkey - particularly baklava, a layered Turkish pastry.
Article written by: Christina Huang, '16