Even though it’s been eight years since I concluded my Fulbright fellowship, I’m still feeling its effects to this day
I would tell myself that the ten months effectively end in 10 blinks of my eyes. I think knowing how quickly the whole experience goes would have encouraged me to be even more active and seek out a higher number of opportunities within my circles and perhaps even beyond them. Looking back, I now know that as an ETA in a large German city with diverse communities, I had an even bigger platform to do good work and build relationships than I initially realized.
Desert island book
I would want Edmund Morris’s biography of our 26th president’s pre-presidential life The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt with me. I think Theodore Roosevelt is easily the most interesting president in U.S. history. He lived at least a dozen different lives that would in and of themselves be worthy of their own Hollywood films. I know that I’d never become bored by Morris’s masterful telling of such tales.
Fulbright changed me!
Even though it’s been eight years since I concluded my Fulbright fellowship, I’m still feeling its effects to this day. I should say that Fulbright will continue to affect me for the rest of my life. For one, Fulbright solidified an interest in international affairs I hadn’t had before. I’d applied with the intention of becoming an academic. Instead, by engaging in social and cultural exchange day in and day out, I discovered that I enjoyed increasing mutual understanding between different people from different places by sharing information, receiving information, creating conversations, and facilitating broader discussions about issues important to both sides. I also discovered that I enjoy teaching more than I’d previously known. In particular, I took great pride and joy in seeing young people grow incrementally over the course of a school year, during which I had to develop and implement different ways to both motivate them to continue to work hard when they perform well and encourage them to continue to work when they do not perform as well as they and others would like.
Overall, my Fulbright experience helped deepen not just my connections to Germany and its people but increased my empathy. I worked at a large comprehensive school in a working-class neighbourhood in a major city with a largely ethnic minority student body. In other words, a lot of the youth I worked come from families who do not have roots in Germany. Though I had a far different childhood and educational experience growing up in the suburbs of northern New Jersey, I was still able to connect with them meaningfully by telling them about my experiences as the first child in my immediate family to be born an American in the United States who was raised by parents who left faraway countries to seek better opportunities in the West. Fundamentally, their experiences growing up in an increasingly diverse and multicultural Germany were not all that different from mine growing up in the world’s most diverse and multicultural country. Conversations about such everyday experiences brought me closer to those I worked with during my fellowship than I would’ve imagined. I still cherish them, and they motivated me to continue to have even more such dialogues.
Chester Eng is an English language teacher and researcher currently based in Pristina, Kosovo. In addition to teaching and mentoring local youth, he now works as a Grant Writer and Researcher for the Kosovo Oral History Initiative (oralhistorykosovo.org), a Kosovo-based NGO dedicated to finding, recording, presenting, and preserving meaningful stories about the country. He previously taught English language and led youth development projects as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a town in north-eastern Kosovo, worked in Washington, D.C., and was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Düsseldorf, Germany. He speaks German, Mandarin Chinese, and Albanian. He grew up in New Jersey and earned his B.A. in English literature and German studies at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. In his free time, he enjoys travelling, photography, cooking, crossword puzzles, and reading biographies.
This content is part of our on-going collaboration with Fulbridge, which focuses on current and recent grantees. For a more in depth profile of Chester, read his Spotlight interview with Fulbridge.