Photo Credit: Athina Nella
Fulbright Exchanges in the Time of the Pandemic.
Following an academic year full of challenges and lessons learned, we were pleased that some of the most popular short-term programs for Greek secondary educators and university students resumed in a hybrid format. Programs kicked off virtually through synchronous and asynchronous meetings, while the in-person component and second part will take place in the United States. Nominated candidates participated in an intensive virtual program during summer 2021, and will continue with a study trip to the U.S. in spring/summer 2022. Despite the adjustment and the shortened in-person program, all participants were enthusiastic about their online experiences. Here is what they have to say about this unique year.
Program for Secondary Educators
The Study of the United States Institutes (SUSI) are five-week academic programs designed for secondary school educators involved in the teaching of English, as well as professionals in curriculum development, teacher training, or textbook writing. It provides multinational groups of 20 experienced secondary school educators each with a deeper understanding of U.S. society, education, and culture, - past and present.
The SUSI program for secondary educators proved to be a transformational program, not only due to exposure to concepts and ideas that pushed forward our thinking about the U.S., but also because we had the chance for impactful interactions with distinguished education professionals from all over the world. The program’s orientation was well organized and included detailed guidance concerning what was going to happen in the 3-week training period. The lectures and topics discussed were of high quality and led to better understanding of the U.S. culture, values, and institutions. Some of the topics evolved around American history and education, bilingual education, cross-cultural communication, gender and equity, colonialism, culturally sustaining pedagogy, asset-based pedagogies and inclusive education, civic engagement, and service learning. One of the most challenging parts of the program was the research project/proposal we worked on after being separated into small groups. The research group I participated in had colleagues from Afghanistan, Thailand, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka; we developed a research proposal entitled Soft Skills and School Curriculum: Challenges and Solutions through a Cross-Cultural Study.
Athina Nella, Scientific Counselor to the Institute of Educational Policy
Administrators Institute at California State University, Chico, CA
Through the abundance of resources and materials provided, covering the dominant aspects of life in the U.S., along with the different perspectives and varied backgrounds that we each brought in, we all felt that there was a holistic approach that aimed at enhancing not only our aptitudes as professionals, but also our sharing and caring as humans. By exchanging views reflecting our countries’ situations, cultures, and contexts, we acquired a more global concept of reality and the variants that come into play depending on the geographical location of each participant. Simultaneously, the Windows into Our World and the collaborative final pedagogical project helped significantly in forging solid friendships and collaborations, thus making us more aware of our similarities and common aspirations as global citizens and inspired, enthusiastic educators.
Elissavet Pramateftaki, Teacher of English at the Second Artemis Middle School
Teachers Institute at the Institute for Training and Development, Amherst, MA
The program was well organized with short, informative academic and pedagogical sessions, supportive material, and opportunities for interaction on a wide variety of themes on user-friendly platforms (Moodle, Zoom). Over the course of the program, we had the chance to get a better insight into facts and notions of American society, history, and culture as well as to get acquainted with updated teaching and learning practices. Our live interaction with U.S. teachers, professors, and virtual hosts was also a great opportunity to discuss and reflect on U.S. educational and social aspects. Working with groups of SUSI colleagues in various projects (blog writing, social hours, group project assignment) helped us to get closer, gain knowledge, and experience from each other and set the basis for future collaborations.
Christina Stavraki, Teacher of English at the Second Primary School of Nafpaktos
Teachers Institute at the Institute for Training and Development, Amherst, MA
The SUSI for Secondary Educators program that was carried out virtually was a three-week, intensive, well-organized, synchronous and asynchronous course. Emphasis was given to building team spirit through various activities by Montana administrative staff, academic staff, and external associates. I have gained valuable insight into tools and teaching ideas to implement in my classes. For instance, taking roles within our small groups (facilitator, note-taker, presenter) was an excellent idea to engage all participants, even the most hesitant. It was enlightening to see how people from different parts of the world, different backgrounds, experiences, and resources can join in and contribute to a program orchestrated superbly. Last but not least, the experience was totally worth the effort and the hours we had to invest, as the whole atmosphere was encouraging and the feedback provided by the staff was only positive.
Maria Pitsaki, Teacher of English at the Experimental General Lyceum of Heraklion, Crete
Teachers Institute at University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Program for University Students
Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders are intensive short term academic programs whose purpose is to provide groups of European undergraduate student leaders with a deeper understanding of the United States, while simultaneously enhancing their leadership skills.
The virtual component of the Summer Institute on Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, included academic lectures, C.A.P.E.S. (Consider, Analyze, Plan, Evaluate, Sustain) project-related classes, cultural meetings with the UTC ambassadors, as well as leadership, educational and community service activities, and presentations. As far as the C.A.P.E.S. project is concerned, the program administrators divided us in 5 groups. My group consisted of Kateryna (from Ukraine), Lia (from Spain), Nicoletta (from Romania), Valdemira (from Portugal), Tryfon (from Cyprus) and me. During our first meetings as a team on Zoom, I offered them a virtual tour of Chania, the place where I live. In the rest of our meetings, we would collaborate using a shared Google document in order to write down and discuss our project ideas.
Georgios Agoritsis, Undergraduate Student at the Technical University of Crete, Chania, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Summer Institute on Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, TN
My overall experience with the program was amazing. We had the chance to introduce ourselves and get to know the other participants although not extensively, except for my C.A.P.E.S. (Consider, Analyze, Plan, Evaluate, Sustain) group and the thematic discussions we had on Blackboard. Blackboard was a very useful tool and after the first few days everyone got the hang of it and posted regularly. I got to see other perspectives and gained knowledge on how their system works and how their culture views major issues. The fact that the program was virtual created issues of scheduling, especially with the rest of my C.A.P.E.S. project group, since we were all in different time zones. Our communication was awesome though, and we scheduled meetings mostly after the synchronous sessions. We discovered a quick working mechanism, using Google docs, with someone keeping notes of what was discussed for those who were not able to attend, and we assigned jobs that should be done and by when, etc. The scheduling issue became even more difficult after the end of the three weeks, since everyone had even more packed days. But no matter the problems, the interest of everyone and their investment in the project made the hurdles easy to overcome, and we managed to have a full presentation ready before the deadline.
Maria-Triantafyllia Revelou, Undergraduate Student at Democritus University of Thrace at Alexandroupolis, Department of Medicine
Summer Institute on Civic Engagement at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC