Thanks to her receiving a Fulbright scholarship, a 23-year-old leaves her Doylestown home July 30 to teach English in Taichung, Taiwan for the next year.
Sara Goldstein is “just one of those people” who always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She just didn’t know that her first long-term job in the profession would take her halfway across the world.
Thanks to her receiving a Fulbright scholarship, the 23-year-old leaves her Doylestown home July 30 to teach English in Taichung, Taiwan for the next year.
“I was excited and thrilled that I had this opportunity,” she said, recalling the day in late March when she opened the email informing her she had been awarded one of the prestigious grants named after the longtime Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright, who came up with the idea for the United States government to fund what has come to be known as the Fulbright U.S. Student program.
According to its mission statement, the program, which was founded in the late 1940s, is dedicated to the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture, and science.”
Goldstein, a Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy alumna and a congregant of Shir Ami in Newtown, just received her master’s degree in urban elementary education from Clark University, where she also completed her undergraduate studies in psychology and sociology.
She had heard of the Fulbright program, which awards grants in different areas, including English teaching assistantships (ETA) to graduate students and young professionals, but had never really considered it until she began looking more into the process a year ago, before starting her master’s program.
The number of Fulbright ETA grants awarded each school year differs from country to country. In Goldstein’s case, 81 ETA grants were awarded to students teaching in various areas of Taiwan for the 2015-2016 school year.
She already has travel experience — she spent her junior year abroad in Prague and Namibia, as well as a semester of high school in Israel. Taiwan provided an element of intrigue she was eager to explore.
“I’ve never traveled anywhere in Asia and wanted to see part of the world I hadn’t gotten to yet,” she said. The more she read about the Taiwanese culture and education system, the more she wanted to be there under the Fulbright aegis.
As she researched the countries in which Fulbright offered programs, she had a few main criteria that Taiwan seemed to satisfy: a school year comparable to the United States; the allure of cross-cultural experience; and the chance to work with younger students.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing the differences in perspectives toward education there,” she said. Children in Taiwan can be in school as late as 5:30 p.m. in some cases, she added, and there are even schools that offer night lessons that the students can take advantage of.
“From the sound of it, people really value education — the whole society does. People respect teachers in a different way.”
Her time with the Fulbright program will provide an experience she will use in and out of the classroom as she adjusts to her new surroundings.
Since she doesn’t currently know any Mandarin, the potential language barrier is a concern for her. Through the Fulbright program, she will have the option of taking basic language courses to help her bridge the gap.
As far as in the classroom, however, the English teaching assistants are not encouraged to speak the native language in the classroom, she explained, so as to encourage the students to adjust to English and become more comfortable with the language.
Armed with previous teaching experience through her stint as an assistant teacher in a third-grade classroom as part of her education studies and two summers as a counselor at URJ Camp Harlam in the Poconos, Goldstein is ready to take the next step in her career.
“I focus a lot on community in any classroom I’m in,” she said. “It’s important to have the environment where kids feel comfortable raising their hands to ask a question.”
Bridging the cultural divide and being open to new experiences is a big part of Goldstein’s own learning curve.
“I think it’s really important to be curious about the world and be able to learn from other people,” she said. “My goal is to have that exchange, to give and take, and encourage both sides to know more about each other — to listen more and to learn from each other. I keep coming back to the phrase, ‘cross-cultural exchange.’ ”
To win the Fulbright scholarship, Goldstein had to go through a rigorous application process which required her to create a grant proposal specifically detailing her lesson plans, as well as a personal statement.
It taught her more about herself, she said, and made her think about what it was she was trying to put forward and accomplish during her time in Taiwan. “I’m excited to get more experience with a classroom with a different set of kids, and I’m excited to branch out and see some things that are different from what I’m used to,” she said. “And,” she added, to “hopefully give the kids there a different experience than from someone who’s grown up in their own cultures.”
Contact: email@example.com; (215-832-0740).