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FGCU’s Fulbright Scholars wrap up 6-week program

Fulbright scholars
Sabrina Salovitz
Fulbright Scholars Abir Ghenaiet, Vijay Kumar and Inna Korytova chat in a Florida Gulf Coast University classroom. They are part of a class of international students studying teaching techniques in the United States.

Each year individuals from around the world receive Fulbright Scholar awards for advanced research and university lecturing in the United States. At Florida Gulf Coast University, the current class of scholars is closing out their time in the 6-week program.

Abir Ghenaiet, 29, is from Tebessa, Algeria, where she’s been teaching English as a foreign language for the past 10 years. Ghenaiet’s town is small and rustic, located on the border of Tunisia. The Fulbright Scholars program was her first time visiting the United States. She’s enjoyed experiencing the little things here that she’d previously only seen on TV, like opening school lockers and swiping credit cards. Nonetheless, Ghenaiet admits to coming here with some negative preconceptions.

“I feel guilty of thinking a lot of preconceived ideas about the U.S.,” she said. “I felt that, oh, the spotlight is going to be on me, they're going to treat me differently.”

Ghenaiet has a map of the world that marks all the countries where she’s considered immigrating; the United States was once excluded from it. Now she says she’ll be adding it once she gets back to Algeria.

“Now I feel I'm leaving home and that really kind of made me learn that you shouldn't judge things before you actually experience them,” she said. “I just love it and now I understand why America is the greatest country in the world, because they give people an opportunity to speak.”

Vijay Kumar, 47, is a high school mathematics teacher from Himachel Pradesh, India. He believes that teaching is more than just a job - it’s a passion. He’s very aware of the responsibility he has in educating the next generation, but the system in the U.S. is so different from the one in his home country that some lessons just don’t carry over.

“Many things I have taken from here, I cannot apply in my country, in my classroom, because so many things are different,” he said. “It's structural changes that are not in my hand, but some techniques, technical tools that teachers are using here I will so that my students are able to see the world in some other perspectives.”

Inna Korytova, 45, is an English language teacher from Siberia, Russia. Korytova writes a private blog so that friends and family in Russia can follow her journey in America. She also has a public Instagram page that she updates regularly, and many of her students follow it. She says they are always eager to find out more about the United States, so she shares with them as much as she can.

Korytova was home alone when she got the message that she had received the Fulbright Scholarship. The first person she told was the co-worker who encouraged her to apply.

“I started running around my house screaming, jumping and feeling that I need to share, I need to share with anyone but nobody's home,” she said. “It was like a one of the best festivals of my life.”

Korytova’s goal as a teacher is to encourage her students to become independent learners. She wants to be more of a facilitator than a teacher, and said she is a teacher because she loves the English language.

“I like English. I don't like doing anything else,” she said. “I like speaking English. I don't have so many people around me who can speak it, so I have to raise them myself.”

This batch of scholars will be returning on March 11 to countries all over the world. Each scholar will bring home new teaching techniques and new perspectives on life.