From 2014-2015, English Language Fellow Alix Slayton taught TESOL curriculum to graduate and undergraduate English majors at Mahasarakam University in Thailand. “I also had a secondary project as an instructor for weekly American Corner activities that were open to all the university’s students, as well as the public. I conducted model lessons, skills-based workshops, mini-courses, and a conversation club,” Slayton said.

Slayton believes that her biggest impact in Thailand was “promoting and cultivating mutual understanding and respect between my host institution and the United States. My primary aim was for my students to see and believe that English could be used as a tool to achieve upward mobility. With the help of EducationUSA and the promotion of outstanding opportunities such as the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), many students of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds found the support, encouragement, and resources they needed to realize their dreams of higher education and/or leadership training in the United States,” Slayton said.

Slayton helped interested students apply for U.S. Department of State exchange grants like YSEALI, and some of her students received them. “These programs are paramount to the development of a nation’s young ambassadors and future leaders. My fellowship helped me play an important role in preparing these students to be active, global citizens through exposure to American culture and people. Programs like YSEALI can give students the opportunity to experience different cultures, broaden their understanding of the world, and bring knowledge back home.”

Helping her students apply for awards like this was certainly a highlight for Slayton, but some of the highlights she cherishes most about her time in Thailand took place on an average day in her classroom. “Through daily interactions with my students, I learned so much about the culture that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I cultivated strong connections and deep friendships with students and colleagues that still stand today, years after my fellowship. The Thais are incredibly hospitable; my friends and colleagues, who became my local family, ensured I never missed an opportunity to witness or participate in a festival or local tradition. And this is what the experience is about, those day-to-day interactions. Yes, so many Fellows manage extraordinary, impactful projects, but I think what we can all agree on, what is most important, is the impression we leave on the local people and the impression we take away from them.”

Relationships she cultivated with local counterparts, students, and neighbors were one of the most meaningful aspects of her fellowship. “Aside from teaching, my passion lies in meeting new people and learning about new cultures, customs, and languages—as well as serving, in a sense, as a diplomat for my country. I think now more than ever it’s vital we promote mutual understanding and cultural sensitivity between the U.S. and other nations, and being a Fellow allowed me to do this in a major way.”

Although her work as a Fellow teaching English to college students in Thailand helped them build important skills, Slayton is quick to recognize that she grew just as much as her students did. “I learned just as much as my students learned from me, and that is my greatest highlight, walking away with insight and love for a new culture and its people that had been completely unknown to me before this fellowship.”

After Slayton completed her fellowship in 2015, she was awarded a Teacher Training and Research Award from Fulbright Taiwan. “I spent the last two years providing pre- and in-service training and support to 80+ Fulbright English Teaching Assistants and their local counterparts. That opportunity would not have been possible without the teacher-training experience and knowledge I gained as a Fellow.”

The English Language Fellow Program is “an opportunity to serve your country as a cultural ambassador and foster understanding and mutual respect between cultures. It’s also an opportunity to expand your horizons, strengthen your skills as a TESOL expert, and develop yourself and your students into responsible global citizens. I am a better teacher, professional, and person as a result of my fellowship.”

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