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Teaching assistants bring international perspective to UNG

Fulbright TAs 2016
Teaching assistants Lu Qian (left), Yunyun Zhang (center) and Alina Batalova (right) are spending the next two semesters helping UNG foreign language students studying Chinese and Russian connect to the culture of those countries while also serving as language tutors.

Alina Batalova of Russia and Lu Qian and Yunyun Zhang of China are providing valuable insight and perspective to students studying foreign language in the University of North Georgia's (UNG) College of Arts & Letters.

All three are serving as teaching assistants in Russian and Chinese courses as well as tutoring students individually. Batalova and Zhang were awarded Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program scholarships to assist in teaching and to take courses at UNG for the 2016-17 academic year. Qian's assistantship is sponsored by the Confucius Institute, based in Beijing.

"Our native language tutors understand and can empathize with what the UNG students are experiencing in working to learn a new language, since they had to learn English at some point," said Dr. Chris Jespersen, dean of UNG's College of Arts & Letters. "Their relative youth makes them approachable, which is vital to the tutoring process. The more UNG students interact with these tutors, the more they gain in cultural understanding, and the more they advance in their language abilities."

Jespersen added that, besides bringing cultural diversity to the university, the tutors also get to experience American culture and advance their own English language abilities.

Batalova and Zhang are two of nearly 400 young educators from 50 countries who are visiting the U.S.  this academic year through the FLTA Program to help internationalize U.S. colleges and universities, a key goal of many institutions as they prepare students for the 21st century workforce and globalized world. Recipients of Fulbright FLTA grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential, and the scholarships are awarded by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

"I have been working as an English teacher for six years, and I am also the assistant dean and vice director of international affairs at Xi'an University of Science and Technology's Gaoxin College," Zhang said. "I really enjoy being the Chinese teaching assistant at UNG, and I'm really impressed by the hospitality of the community and self-motivation of the students. This is also a great opportunity to enrich my experience of teaching and improve my skills of delivering lessons. UNG provides us access to new teaching methods, a different culture, and a fresh perspective to take back to students in China."

Zhang feels her experience in international exchange will help her foster diversity values and leadership in UNG students, and she plans to be creative in exposing the students to Chinese culture and tradition.

Batalova said Russian culture is extremely rich and fascinating, and by sharing her knowledge and experience with students, she hopes to broaden their horizons.

"I know my time here will help me immensely in improving my teaching skills," she said. "Since I am here not only as a Russian language TA, but also as a student, I have a great chance to see how American professors work with students and will learn a lot from them. Helping everyone to fall in love with Russian culture is of the utmost importance to me."

The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments, universities, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the U.S. also provide direct and indirect support.

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946, and has given approximately 360,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Since 2001, more than 4,000 Fulbright awardees have been Fulbright FLTAs.

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