Snapshot: Zoë Gioja (Korea, 2014/15) and Fulbridge
Apr 14, 2020
I couldn’t have gotten Fulbridge off the ground without the team of other grantees and alumni. It was amazing and enriching, too, to connect with so many other Fulbrighters with such diverse experiences
I’d say one of the biggest things my Fulbright award brought me is the reminder not to take yourself too seriously, and to have a sense of humor. I thank my students for this (I taught at a girls’ middle school in Mokpo). When I think back, so many of my memories are of total mayhem in the classroom—sometimes stressful, other times hilarious. Language games that involved writing on the blackboard would often turn into students grabbing those giant soft erasers and hitting each other with them, emitting huge clouds of chalk dust, with me caught in the middle. By the end we’d all be laughing, and they’d settle down again. At other times, there would be those awkward silences, where I’d wish a student, any student, would participate. After school, I’d get together with my close ETA friends in Mokpo, and we’d laugh until we cried over how completely unglamorous our days had been: covered in chalk dust, hair awry, completely harried trying to lead our classes, but having the best time.
Fulbridge is a website that aims to connect Fulbright grantees from around the world, and to enable us to expand each other’s knowledge of the world through these connections. I had the idea when I was traveling in Southeast Asia during my grant in winter 2015. I realized I’d love to learn more about the countries I was traveling in, and I thought that meeting other ETAs, and maybe even visiting their schools, would be one great way to do that. Fulbridge therefore really comes from this impetus to keep learning about the world beyond your own placement country. With a team of other grantees around the world, we created the map, which would allow Fulbrighters to see and connect with one another; the lesson catalog for ETAs to support each other in their teaching; and the blog, which would enable Fulbrighters to learn about one another’s experiences and grant countries.
My advice for grantees and alumni wanting to start a project is: connect, connect, connect! I couldn’t have gotten Fulbridge off the ground without the team of other grantees and alumni. It was amazing and enriching, too, to connect with so many other Fulbrighters with such diverse experiences. Reach out, find resources, elicit opinions early and often, and find teammates and supporters.
If I could have dinner with a famous person, it would be Ursula K. LeGuin. I’ve read her fiction since I was a kid, but I also think she’d be a delightful person to have dinner with—sharp and witty and down to earth all at the same time.