Yesterday afternoon, Brian (another Fulbrighter) and I were interviewed for Moldovan radio about a presentation that we were about to give to group of college students. The topic was undergraduate education in the United States. I have no idea when or where the interview is supposed to air, nor do I know if any of it will be in English or if they'll just use the translations of what was said. Frankly, it was a bit of an ambush, but we were happy to oblige, and I hope that we were able to give them more or less what they wanted. It is apparently National Education Week here in Moldova.
As for the presentation itself, it went well. We were scheduled to talk for about an hour and it ended up lasting a little over two. All in all, I think that we were able to offer a fairly comprehensive overview of the structure of higher education in the U.S., as well as answer some of the more specific questions that they had for us. One of the main points that we tried to convey in the discussion part of the presentation is that the college experience really is different for everybody, and what you get out of it is contingent on how much you put in. The challenges are certainly there for the taking, but there is a certain degree of self-motivation that is often required in order to succeed. This is, of course, just as true for Americans as it is for international students.
I should note, however, that in the two years that I taught Freshman Composition at NIU, some of the most dedicated students I had were from other countries, for whom English wasn't even their first language. This isn't to say that there is any inherent superiority to international students, but rather, I think it's safe to say that it generally requires a lot of hard work to just make it that far, so why would they stop putting in the effort once they get to the U.S.? It can take well over a year to just get everything in place to study abroad, from securing student visas to taking the TOEFL to researching and applying to a university that fits that student's interest. I know how much work went into applying for the Fulbright grant, a process that continued for about a year, and I know that most of these students have to go through similar steps in order to move one step closer to achieving their own educational goals.
On the same token, I fully intend to make the most of my experiences here, as it is an invaluable opportunity to learn as well as it is to teach. Education is, after all, a two-way street. The best teachers, it seems, are the ones who recognize that there is always more to learn. In a similar respect, some of the most ignorant people I've ever met are those who think that they already know all there is to know.