Okay, I tricked you. I actually don’t have a daily schedule, or even really a weekly one. But I figured that amidst all the posts about travel, visitors, and entertainment, some of you might be wondering about what I actually do for work.
(If you don’t want to hear about how unglamorous and challenging living abroad and “teaching” English can be, you should probably stop reading right now.)
For better or worse, I was placed in a town at a university that has never had a Fulbright ETA before. This has meant that there really isn’t a formal role that has been carved out for me. In contrast to the majority of my ETA colleagues across the region, I have not been assigned any particular classes to teach/assist with. In other words, I have been assigned/given zero hours of work per week (I knew going into this that I would have to be pretty independent and self-starting, but didn’t quite realize the extent of it…).
For someone who thrives on schedules and overextending herself, this has been difficult to say the least. Pair this lack of structure with my bare minimum knowledge of Croatian and my sparse teacher training, and this has undoubtedly been the most challenging experience of my life, professionally and emotionally.
Obviously, I have had to work extra hard in order to find work to do and ways to keep busy. With lots of help, I’ve been making more and more connections around town and spending as much time as I can interacting with students (how much time? it varies, but in general it’s still not enough). I enjoy the time I am able to spend with students immensely, and I love contributing (in a small way) to their learning. I am also learning a lot, about Croatia but also about myself, and many of those lessons have been invaluable.
So here are some of the things I have done so far:
-privately tutor university students to help them improve their grammar
-schedule weekly opportunities for English conversation with university students (i.e. meeting up at cafes and chatting about whatever they are interested in… but using samo engleski, only English)
-deliver presentations on American culture/history to elementary through high school aged students
-create/run games and activities in high school classrooms designed to get students to use their English creatively and rapidly
-serve as an adviser for students who are interested in studying abroad in the U.S.
Delivering a presentation on Washington D.C. at a local elementary school
Here are a couple of the most important lessons I have learned (or already knew, but have been reinforced by this experience):
-be extra kind and welcoming to strangers in your community (I so cherish every small act of kindness or friendship that has been given to me. It can be so lonely to be an expat.)
-don’t expect to be able to come into a community as an outsider and be able to be super effective, especially without the language and a deep understanding of the particular community; you have to find ways to partner with the community itself in order to get anything done!