English Language Fellow Bryce Smedley met and spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about the amazing work English Language Fellows are doing in Africa and around the world.
Smedley reported that their conversation focused on the so-called “soft diplomacy” initiatives that are the focus of fellow projects. While every fellow works on education and ESL projects in their communities, they are also representatives and cultural ambassadors of the United States. By teaching English, fellows bring American culture into the classrooms of teachers and students around the world. Therefore, one of the most important goals of a fellow’s work is the promotion of mutual understand and cross-cultural communication between the United States and the country of assignment.
Smedley’s experience teaching in the DRC has showed him that he has the opportunity to transform Congolese student lives through helping them learn English.
“By learning a new language,” said Smedley, “Students gain the ability to explore issues that might be too sensitive in their first language—like women’s rights, tolerance, diversity, and equality for everyone. English language learning transforms our students, allows them to understand our foreign policies and at the same time equips students with the right language tools to attend educational opportunities in the United States.”
Smedley ended his conversation with Secretary Kerry by emphasizing the benefits of working so closely with local communities. “I am happily in the trenches, working and living alongside the people I am sent to help educate. This arrangement allows me to learn so much from the host institutions and the host culture and gives me so much that I can bring back to my professional career in the United States.”