Based in New Delhi, India, a bustling capital city where cows often wander shanty-lined streets, English Language Fellow Eileen Finn teaches at Ambedkar University. Discover Finn’s life as a Fellow as she attends traditional Indian art classes and develops English language capacity as an English for Academic Purposes instructor and teacher trainer.
Increasing English Language Learning Capacity in India
Finn’s primary fellowship duties are at Ambedkar University, where she teaches public speaking and academic reading, writing, and research skills to undergraduate students. Recognizing her students’ needs, Finn has focused much of her work on confidence building in speaking, and organization and flow in writing.
In addition to her work at the university, Finn is actively engaged in a diverse array of secondary projects with a variety of populations. In collaboration with Fellow Kristina Dixon, Finn teaches business English and soft skills to customer service representatives at a metro company in Lucknow. Together, the two Fellows help the customer service employees simulate interactions with customers in English.
Additionally, Finn has led multiple teacher trainings for English Access Microscholarship teachers, secondary school teachers, university professors, and incoming Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs). Finn states, “ESL techniques are constantly changing and upgrading, so it’s good to put on workshops for teachers who just want to see other styles and perspectives. The trainings also help new teachers who have never taught before and need support.”
Workshops on misinformation and model United Nations simulations are among other secondary projects which have shaped Eileen’s impact. The trainings have helped foster teamwork, debate, negotiation, and critical thinking skills.
Finn notes that unemployment among youth in India is a widespread problem and that students graduating with limited communication skills is a contributing factor. To address this issue, Finn has designed and facilitated custom workshops teaching soft skills and interview best practices to soon-to-be college graduates. Joining forces with Fellow Robin Cathey to maximize impact, Finn recently co-delivered an English boot camp for youth in Delhi.
Daily Life in New Delhi
Finn lives in India with her husband who is also an ESL teacher and teacher trainer. In the mornings, Finn and her husband both prep for class, sharing ideas and feedback. On weeknight evenings, Finn’s husband goes to yoga and sitar classes while she attends a foreign women’s club where she learns how to wear sarees and cook Indian food. On Sundays, Finn and her husband explore the city together. She states, “with a population of 24 million and what feels like a festival every couple of weeks, even two years isn’t long enough to see Delhi in its entirety.”
Connecting with Local Culture through Art
According to Finn, “The best way to learn about a culture is to get involved.” On Saturdays, Finn attends an art class where she is learning how to do Tanjore painting. “Joining the art class was one of the best decisions I’ve made in India because art can cross any cultural or linguistic boundaries we have. Through this process, I learned so much about Indian culture, pushing myself, proving to myself that I could do this, and gaining so much respect for the local artists here as I had no idea how difficult this would be,” Finn states.
An example of one of Finn’s Tanjore paintings of Ganesha, the Hindu god of overcoming obstacles, is shown here.
The Impact of Teacher Training
Finn feels that the most impactful aspect of her fellowship has been delivering teacher training. “I love working with new teachers,” she shares. Through workshops for new teachers, Finn has striven to provide resources and strategies to help novice teachers succeed and support one another. “It’s been really fun to introduce new interactive ideas that can make learning more interesting for everyone and help reduce anxiety,” Finn explains.
Personal and Professional Growth
Finn reflects that the Fellow Program has helped her become a “better person and teacher.” “Living in a foreign country has always required one to be more open-minded, flexible, and have a great sense of humor and adventure,” she states. Although Finn has over 17 years of teaching experience, prior to becoming an English Language Fellow, she had limited teacher training experience. Now, she delivers two-to-three-day workshops in different states and cities across India at least once or twice a month. “This job has taught me to know when to be a leader and when to be part of a team. The victories and the challenges I have faced have made this experience feel like a unique rollercoaster ride that has helped me grow as a person,” Finn explains.
Eileen Finn is the English Language Fellow at the Ambedkar University in New Delhi. Her assignment at the university involves teaching academic reading/writing and research skills to students. Finn has a postgraduate degree in TESOL from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, and a graduate degree in Spanish. As an ESL instructor, Finn has 17 years of teaching experience in 7 different countries teaching business professionals at Fortune 500 companies, children, and undergraduates. Her passion for education, languages, and travel is what drives her. Eileen has received several awards for her teaching such as a University-sponsored fellowship to teach in Hong Kong, “Teacher of the Year,” as well as “Star Employee of the Month” for her classroom performance. She also is a researcher in TESOL with several publications that she has presented at academic conferences, a children’s author, and a professional artist.