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Madison Kambic (’18, ’19M) Fulbright in Czech Republic

College of Arts & Letters Fulbrighter


 
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SUMMARY: Madison Kambic is currently doing an English Teaching Assistantship through Fulbright Czech Republic. She graduated from JMU with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in secondary education, and earned a Master’s of Teaching in secondary education.


By Madison Kambic ('18, '19M)

How can I describe my Fulbright experience? It’s magical, confusing, unexpected, and wondrous all at the same time. I live in the city of Ostrava, with approximately 290,000 people. It is the third largest in the country and it is located in the far east near the border with Poland.

What does a day in my life look like?

My teaching experience has been different than that in the United States. Because I am an ETA, I do not have the typical workload that a Czech teacher does. I teach about 15 hours each week. I visit different classes each week on a rotating schedule, so it is different than a typical U.S. high school. Teaching entails something different for each lesson. In some, I am leading lessons like a typical U.S. teacher, the same techniques I learned through both my bachelor’s and master’s programs at JMU.

In others, I am providing a mini-lesson on a variety of topics based on what individual teachers request—U.S. traditions, leisure time, holidays and vacations, etc. If not the first two, I engage with students in small groups and help with English speaking, listening, and writing practice.

It’s magical, confusing, unexpected, and wondrous all at the same time.

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At the U.S. Embassy in Prague.

I also host multiple community engagement projects, which means extracurricular clubs. Right now, I host a conversation and culture club for my students. We play board games, watch and discuss videos, and just chat! I also have a conversation practice club for the teachers who wish to enhance their English. This includes the headmaster of my school!

It’s been humbling interacting with students in and out of the classroom. To be situated in a country where nearly everyone speaks my only language but they know and speak multiple is jarring at times. I feel like it is easier to connect with them because I am in their shoes. I understand what it feels like to walk up to a native speaker (for example, in a restaurant) and sheepishly reply when asked simple questions. I use this to remind myself what they students are going through with me, and I try to connect and poke fun at myself.

After school is over, I usually take public transportation (trams are my favorite) to the main square where there are several cafés, restaurants, stores, and public parks to enjoy. I have found myself in my favorite café, Čauky Mňauky Café (translates to “hello meow”; or, a very friendly cat hello as my mentor describes), several times. If I am not exploring my own city, I visit others. I have already visited Kroměříž, which is about 110 km away to visit fellow ETAs. This city was a literal fairytale—gardens, castles, wild peacocks and rabbits wandering about, stunning forests, and a feeling of community within the town.

Stepping into the city center takes my breath away because of the liveliness and atmosphere.

While I do live in a large city, it still feels different than living in the U.S. Stepping into the city center takes my breath away because of the liveliness and atmosphere. The architecture mirrors Prague and the cobblestone is present everywhere and beautiful. There are also mountains nearby to climb (Beskydy) and many hiking paths. Many of my colleagues have invited me into their homes and gardens to eat, laugh, harvest fruits and vegetables, and share stories together. The locals I have meet have been nothing but kind and hospitable to me.

What have I learned?

A lot! I’m learning the language and customs every day, like socially-mandatory salutations (Dobrý den when entering, na shledanou when leaving) and other vital phrases. I’m also learning a lot about who I am as an educator. The M.A.T. program at JMU and student teaching prepared me how to be an effective teacher.

... how to truly be flexible with work and myself, become more willing to take risks, and represent myself and my country authentically.

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Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, at night.

I have learned that, in some ways, teenagers are teenagers no matter where you are in the world. However, I am growing as an educator and a person after interacting with people in different cultures. I have learned how to truly be flexible with work and myself, become more willing to take risks, and represent myself and my country authentically.

Overall, I am having a blast. I’m getting to explore new places, meet new people, do what I love, eat amazing food, and learn. I am so, so thankful for this opportunity.

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Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Last Updated: Monday, December 16, 2019

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