PEMA KALA BHUSAL
Travelling is something I’ve always craved for since my childhood. My passion for travelling has led me travel to many places across the country and recently abroad, fortunately. In the autumn (October-November) of 2014, I visited Eugene, Oregon, USA, to participate in a three-week-long E-Teacher Professional Development Workshop sponsored by the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (Office of English Language Programs) and the University of Oregon, Linguistics Department/American English Institute (UO AEI). I was chosen for the program based on my performance in the online E-teacher Course I had attended virtually. I was one among 24 participants representing 24 different countries. I not only represented Nepal but also Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Before I traveled to the US, I had different perceptions and curiosities. This was not only the first time I was traveling to a foreign country, it was also the first time I was making a long journey alone. I was both nervous and excited during the trip. Sometimes, I thought about missing a flight, losing my belongings, and so on. But fortunately, I did not face any trouble at all.
The E-Teacher Professional Development Workshop was held in a beautiful campus of University of Oregon (UO), Eugene. The campus looked so colorful and fascinating with almost five hundred species of trees in its premises, that has made this Oregon more unique in its beauty. Above all, I believe peaceful and fresh environment, generous people, special educational system, and remarkable natural beauty together have made a great ambience for the program.
After having a complementary continental breakfast at the Phoenix Inn Suites, located near the UO campus and downtown Eugene, we attended the morning sessions of the workshop at the Phoenix Inn itself. The sessions were held from 9 am to the noon. Following the morning sessions, we always moved to the UO Campus, Carson Dining Hall for our lunch, which consisted of a variety of food items.
The workshop sessions were designed and delivered in such a way that triggered to make us (participants) more interactive and engaging. I found most of the contents related to Nepalese contexts as well. I really got surprised from the commitment, support of my instructors, management and overall American English Institute (AEI) faculty. What a wonderful management for the workshop! Overall, the sessions, instructors and the materials were incredibly awesome.
Meanwhile, I also got the opportunity to observe the classroom. I mainly observed two English classes at the UO. The first class was at high intermediate level at B13B Klamath with Ms. Stef Brewer. I saw the students discussing Museum and the Art (They had gone there the previous week) in different groups. I also joined with one of their groups and learned about their journey to the museum. The group had some non-native speakers of English whose English language was not very proficient, so to improve their English speaking skills, two graduate students who are native speakers of English, joined the conversation. The graduate students were visiting tutors to them. During the conversation with the tutors, I found they would visit the class twice a week and they also wanted to become teachers. At last, the students were assigned to come up with the problem solving questions and they had to solve in the group. This is the approach they followed to assess the students, I learnt. I really liked this idea to help the learners improve their language skills.
Another classroom I observed was writing at 322 Library with AEIS110 (American English Institute) students. During the observation, I found that the students were non-American (Chinese) and they were taught English grammar. The tutor told me that they were very good at their English speaking skills but they did not know the rules. That’s why they were taught English grammar, the tutor added. This is what I found completely different from our context. Overall, I enjoyed observing both the classes and learned a lot about the new systems which I was not familiar with before.
Likewise, one of the wonderful schools I have ever visited was Academy of International Studies, Woodburn School District. This is an outstanding multilingual school district which motivates and empowers all students to succeed. I was fascinated from different systems and facilities provided by the school. The main mission of the school is to engage, inspire and prepare all students to learn and lead in a global society. The school principal was very kind and supportive. Despite busy schedule, he spent the whole day helping us to observe the classes. I found the Spanish class, German class, and English language classes all interesting. The teachers were highly active and experienced. Above all, what amazed me the most was the goal of the school, which was to produce multilingual students. Multilingualism is viewed as an important and powerful goal of education in more places around the world and we should learn this lesson in Nepal.
Apart from the workshop and class observation, the sightseeing was wonderful. I visited to different famous places during my stay in Eugene. The first trip was at Oregon coast and Oregon Coast Aquarium. For me, it was also an opportunity to see new and different creatures such as Sea Otters and harbor seal, which I was not familiar with before. The main interesting thing I witnessed there was the time to feed the creatures and see them behaving like human beings.
What I enjoyed doing the most in Eugene was ‘shopping’. Mainly, Bestbuy, Wallmart, Market of Choice and Macy’s, Target were among the different shopping places I visited. I found ‘Best buy’ as the best place to buy electronic items. How could I forget the moment when I was about to lose my way when I went for shopping in ‘Wallmart’? But later with the help of the systematic maps in each and every bus station and the very kind bus drivers, I was able to find out the suitable way.
Newport, Bayfront was another great place for shopping and sightseeing that I could explore during my trip. Although I did not buy lots of things there, I enjoyed watching them and find new things there. I also visited to the Newport lighthouse, beach walk and a great city, New York. Wherever I went, everything was amazing and I enjoyed my visit a lot.
Learning American Culture
My trip schedule to the US included exploring American culture as well. As a part of American culture, Halloween, a cultural event, is the most amazing experience I had during the trip. I was very excited to celebrate this event, so I and my colleagues went to a local farm to purchase pumpkins. Then, after a very few days, it was the time for Pumpkin Carving for Halloween. It was nice to see all in different looks wearing different cultural Halloween things. We enjoyed a lot taking pictures and having party at Phoenix Inn, Hospitality room.
Then I could participate in a cultural exchange program’ at ‘Knight Library Browsing Room’. The University of Oregon (UO) faculty and staff and invited officials and community members had attended the program, wherein I shared information about Nepal, my country, and Nepalese culture. Everyone seemed enjoying the program and we also distributed some cultural items to the participants. It was really nice to see almost all the participants in their own national customs. Overall, I had a wonderful experience I have ever had.
Finally, I was supposed to do was to design a project to deliver two-hour workshop in my home country, Nepal. Then, I started working on my project (Team Building) which is suitable in our context. We were 24 participants from 24 different countries to collaborate, discuss and work in the groups which made us easier to work on the project.
Then there was the time to deliver a 30-minutes presentation about my project which was the part of my two-hour workshop. New place, new people and the new things to do, I was a bit nervous. My nervousness grew further after I came to learn that the presentations were broadcast live worldwide and open to the public. Despite of my anxiety, my presentation finally went on well and it was fun and engaging to the participants. It was nice to get positive feedback from the participants including instructors. It was a great learning that there was nothing to be nervous but this way I built up confidence.
To conclude, I spent three busy weeks in beautiful Eugene of Oregon. I feel myself recharged with lots of experiences and excitements back to Nepal. Each place I went was rewarding and stimulating. I wish we had similar roads, physical infrastructure and all the facilities I saw during my trip to the US. I believe the trip was the most exciting and fruitful moment I have ever had in my life. It was simply awesome learning.
The author is doing her Masters in ELT from Kathmandu University.