Snapshot: Neelu (India, 2014/15)
In my last role, I would try to transfer my experience of the United States with my students to engage them in class discussions on diversity, cultural differences and global career opportunities. Most of these discussions were aimed at reducing ethnocentricity and increasing efficacy in communication between culturally diverse groups
All the FLTAs of 2014-15 batch had assembled in the Hilton auditorium in Washington D.C. for the first day of the mid-year conference organized by IIE. In the conference, the various roles and responsibilities that FLTAs were performing in their respective universities were presented. Later, the names of 5 FLTAs were announced for their remarkable contribution to teaching of language and culture. Being one of those five is an honor no less than an award. I feel grateful to the FLTA programme committee for appreciating my work in front of 412 FLTAs from 51 countries.
Transfering Fulbright experiences
I was teaching Technical/Business Communication to the undergraduate students at GNDU, Amritsar, Punjab. In my last role, I would try to transfer my experience of the United States with my students to engage them in class discussions on diversity, cultural differences and global career opportunities. Most of these discussions were aimed at reducing ethnocentricity and increasing efficacy in communication between culturally diverse groups. I will use my FLTA experiences in my next role as a faculty at IIIT, too.
Desert island books
If I were stranded voluntarily which means I would have the chance to come back whenever I wished, I would keep close a copy of The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafaq. I would immerse myself in the thought provoking messages of love and faith that the book explores. However, if I were to be stranded with no certainty of going back, I would keep with me a blank diary. That would be a perfect time to weave my own story, share my own experiences, a better way to kill time.
If I could learn any language, it would be Spanish. As an FLTA, I audited a Spanish language course in two semesters and could communicate a bit in it, which helped me a lot during my stay in the U.S. Once my friend and I wanted to travel to Miami from Orlando, but we had just a day in hand. The only viable option was to hire a cab. When I contacted a car rental service, a Latin-American driver agreed for a round trip to Miami, but he quoted more than 600 USD for the day long trip. Unbelievably, he, later, came down to 300 USD when I bargained with him in Spanish. Going against the popular advice to refrain from bargaining in the US, I gave in to my Indian ethos of negotiating and skilfully used my limited proficiency in Spanish.
Advice to grantees
Get a last name or brace yourself for a new identity. In the States, people mostly call you by your last name in formal settings. Since I don’t have a last name, the space for the last name is filled with N/A (Not Applicable) on my passport. I had to fill it because it is a mandatory field. What I didn’t see coming was that for my entire stay in the US, I was referred to as Ms. NA because they believed that NA was my last name. I also faced issues at the social security centre because of this. They refused to understand that a person can exist without a last name. So, they put my first name in place of my last name and gave me a new first name instead, which was FNU (First Name Unidentified). So now I was also known as Ms. FNU. I can’t say if it was a comedy or a tragedy.
Neelu is a 2014-2015 Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Alumna from Ranchi in India. During her Fulbright tenure, she taught Hindi at Johns Hopkins University in USA. She is currently on faculty at the Department of English at Guru Nanak Dev University, Punjab in India and she will soon be joining the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Lucknow on the faculty of Communications. She has a Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, India.