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Margot Harris’ Life as an English Language Fellow in Algeria

Overlooking the Mediterranean coast, amid steep winding streets, whitewashed buildings, and citadel ruins, English Language Fellow Margot Harris teaches pre-service teachers, emergency responders, and Algerian youth in the capital city of Algiers. Read more to follow Margot’s journey of building cultural connections and learning opportunities inside and beyond the classroom.

Awakening Impact in Algeria

Harris’ day begins at sunrise, awakening to resounding calls for morning prayer.  “No alarm clock needed here” she states. Since Harris teaches at three different places throughout the city, the early start to her day provides more time for impactful work. “Through my work, I am preparing future Algerian high school TEFL teachers, first responders, and future doctors, lawyers, and professionals to be better citizens of Algeria and of the world,” she states.


Harris’ work week starts each Saturday teaching English language workshops to pre-service Algerian teachers at Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS). She returns to ENS on Mondays to teach over 200 4th year pre-service teachers the art of TEFL. “I have been given a lot of freedom to teach the way I wish and the students seem to find that refreshing,” Harris describes. For example, she recently ran a research workshop for her 5th year students to help them prepare for their final dissertations. Through an interactive approach, Harris has shared TEFL resources, classroom management advice, and student-centered teaching strategies to help the pre-service teachers increase student learning and engagement.

On Sundays and Tuesdays, Harris teaches a group of emergency responders at the Algerian Civil Protection Agency (CPA). Harris states that her students at the CPA “inspire me to be creative as there is no textbook nor curriculum.” By putting her students’ needs at the center of instruction, Harris teaches the CPA students what they need and want to know.


The third group of students that Harris teaches are young Algerians hoping to work or study in the United States. Each Wednesday, she shares TOEFL test-taking strategies with them at the American Cultural Corner of Algiers (ACCA). Harris has also helped organize cultural events at ACCA, such as an interactive workshop on the history and joy of Halloween (pictured below).


Flavors of the Mediterranean

When she is not teaching or planning lessons, Harris enjoys exploring Algiers and shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables at her local green grocer. “The days are often clear and sunny and the view of the Mediterranean Sea is spectacular, so I walk most places in order to better know my community,” she describes. On most days, Harris cooks at home in her apartment, overlooking a beautiful garden. On occasion, she ventures out for a meal and enjoys sizzling shawarma (grilled meat), flavorful french fries or crispy crepes.


Cultural Exchange through Personal Connections

As part of her Fellowship, Harris is committed to fostering intercultural exchange and reducing negative stereotypes. As she was preparing for her Fellowship, she realized that “not many many people knew about Algeria and what they did know was negative.” As a result, Harris is inspired to share her Fellowship story to encourage a change in attitude about Algeria and Northern Africa. Harris shares:

“As a Fellow I’m given a unique perspective as I’m much like anyone else living in the community. My neighbors recognize me and engage with me in conversations about the weather, our jobs and where to find the best deals. My students and I discuss culture and politics without judgment or labels and share the beauty of common interests like music and food. Algeria is both ancient and cosmopolitan, conservative and liberal and in some ways no different than the US.”


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This is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Georgetown University, Center for Intercultural Education and Development.

All decisions related to participant terms (including candidate review, selection, funding, suspension, revocation, and termination) and all criteria related thereto are made and established by the U.S. Department of State.