Franny Le Grand was an English Language Fellow in Konya, Turkey from 2009-2010. Living in a country steeped in a rich and diverse history, working in a new educational context, and trying different customs was an adventure for Le Grand, who happily immersed herself in Turkish culture.
As an English Language Fellow, Le Grand took on a leadership role in many projects within her university. “In Konya, I devised and led teacher training courses for undergraduate students and faculty. Also, I initiated and led the Turkish teaching faculty with technical workshops and conferences. In the spring, I used an English Language Program grant to create, promote, and participate in a regional English language teaching conference hosted at my university.”
Le Grand is now a coordinator and instructor at the Intensive English Program at the University of Houston-Downtown, where she leads classes, mentors student teachers, evaluates staff, presents teacher training workshops, revises curriculum, and more. “My current position is similar to the one I had in Turkey. The teacher training workshops I led in Turkey are great additions to my toolkit as a coordinator. My fellowship gave me opportunities to hone skills that were immediately applicable back in the States.”
Le Grand felt welcomed immediately in her new home. “I loved being included in many family meals and parties; drinking tea with acquaintances and becoming new friends, smoking rose-mint hookah, and listening to the call to prayer every day. My students were eager and friendly and therefore, the work was rewarding. I loved living and working among wonderful people and enjoyed being invited into strangers’ homes for delicious food. The entire experience gave me more confidence as an educator and as a respected representative of the United States.”
In Turkey, Le Grand immersed herself in the culture by traveling around the country, trying new foods, and celebrating traditional holidays. “Turkey is a huge country and it varies vastly in climate, food, culture, and landscape. I enjoyed going to the farthest borders to glimpse the entire spectrum. Van is in the far east, bordering on Iran. It is famous for its huge breakfast with clotted cream and herbed goat cheese. This is a frosty region with snowcapped mountains and a large bitter-cold lake. In Van, I learned how to contrast the unique motifs of Turkish, Kurdish, and Iranian carpets and kilims.”
Le Grand also traveled to the cities of Mardin and Sanli Urfa. “In Mardin, along the Syrian border, there are ancient rocky citadels and the entire landscape is dry, sandy, and entirely brown. I watched kites fly over ancient minarets and tradesmen hammer into metal plates, murmuring in Kurdish. Sanli Urfa is a city famous for its food, but I was fascinated with the facial tattoos and ubiquitous lavender scarves on men and women. There I met the man who made all the leather sandals for the cast of the movie Troy.”
Le Grand’s fellowship activities in Konya, especially her teacher training workshops, had a deep impact on her colleagues and the teachers she trained. “Accepting a fellowship is not simply a teaching opportunity, but a chance to spread your love for teaching and English to burgeoning students abroad. More than that, it is a bridge-building project to learn from the English teachers abroad who may not have ready access to supplies, but use their training, talents, and immense creativity to reach students.”
“My work as a Fellow has been a foundation of my career as an English teacher, adviser, and teacher trainer. It has hearkened back to my Peace Corps days, inspired current students, and encouraged new teachers to go abroad. It is an important part of who I am and what I represent as an educator.”