Being a Fulbright FLTA at Ferrum College in Virginia changed my life. I will never forget the day I was awarded the scholarship; it was the day. I knew it would change my life but I had no idea how much and in how many ways. I had to wait almost a year to know which university I would be placed in (which meant checking my E-mail every chance I had). The wait was long, but more than worth it as I was about to discover. I finally got my destination: Ferrum College. That name didn´t mean anything to me so I looked for it on Google and was very pleased with what I found. Although I was a little bit concerned (maybe I should say very concerned) about its surroundings. It was in the middle of nowhere and somewhere in the state of Virginia with no means of transportation from Monday through Thursday. But I always try to have a good attitude towards new challenges, so I thought to myself, “Well, it isn’t a big deal if I am stuck in that little town for a year because I still got the scholarship!”
Ferrum welcomed me from the very beginning and the warmth of its people made my homesickness vanish. My list of the incredible things I can say about Ferrum College and my experience there is endless. From a professional point of view, one of the most important things was my mentor allowing me a lot of freedom to teach my classes. Each semester I taught two classes as a primary teacher and a conversation workshop. I also took the initiative of offering a Spanish class for Ferrum’s College faculty and staff and took part in the Spanish Club. In addition to this incredible freedom, my colleagues always treated me as an equal and made the effort to get to know me by inviting me to every event. I built long lasting bonds with many people in Ferrum.
I am grateful for having been given these responsibilities and opportunities. I enjoyed being a cultural bridge between Spain and the United States, both inside and outside of the classroom. Everything was very different and my students and I laughed a lot talking about the differences. Sometimes my students were scared of some Spanish things that looked different to them, but it was easy to help them learn to love what is different. My experience in Ferrum taught me that once the language barrier is broken it is much easier to resolve the problems that arise from a lack of understanding between people from different countries.
This year was full of first times and discoveries. For the first time, I made two one-month road trips that allowed me to visit 39 of the 50 United States. I touched the Pacific Ocean, met people from more than 50 different countries and cultures, saw a crocodile in its natural habitat, ate smores at a bonfire, tried all kinds of fried food from the South, and watched an American football game (and actually tried to understand it). I saw a buffalo and a bear, swam in the Florida Key’s on New Year, went to a shooting range, ran a mud race and dressed in a gown and biretta. I celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day, saw an oil well just like in the movies, saw the damages caused by a tornado, and enjoyed hiking through some amazing national parks. The list goes on and on and I could not imagine a better year in the United States.
I thank Fulbright and Ferrum College for helping my teaching vocation grow stronger and for giving me the opportunity to stay in the United States and experience so many amazing things!
Marta Casanova Hernández
FLTA 2013-14 at Ferrum College, Virginia