Meghan O’Loughlin ’09 recently learned that she is one of only 44 international recipients to receive a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant for Eastern Europe. This opportunity will allow O’Loughlin to teach English in Georgia. Along with grammar and vocabulary, she will contextualize the English language into contemporary American culture, creating a culturally-focused study of language.
When O’Loughlin arrives in Georgia, it won’t be her first time working with language abroad. In addition to her study of the Russian language at the Colleges, she participated in intensive language training at Bryn Mawr Russian Language Institute in the summer of 2006 and the Smolny Institute in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the summer of 2007.
It was during her first abroad experience that O’Loughlin was inspired by her host mother, Nadezhda, to teach Russian language with a cultural focus. “By talking to Nadezhda about everything from my Russian language coursework to cultural stereotypes, to the loss of life in the Russian gulags, I learned so much about how U.S. culture can be compared and contrasted to Russian and other European cultures,” O’Loughlin said.
“But more than anything, I learned the difference that one person can make in changing the perceptions of others as Nadezhda did for me. By teaching my students the English language and how to compare and contrast their culture to U.S. culture, I hope to affect a similar change in the world.”
O’Loughlin was also motivated to pursue teaching abroad by one of her mentors here at HWS: Irina Mikhaleva, a native of Russia and an assistant professor of Russian area studies, who incorporated the study of culture into her language courses.
“Meghan has a rare ability to non-judgmentally mediate U.S. and other cultures,” Mikhaleva noted of her student. “She has a tremendous amount of respect for her native country and for other countries, and is able to discuss the strengths and shortcomings of countries equally – a fairness that is needed when teaching others a foreign language and culture.”
O’Louglin is currently in Siberia as part of an HWS program and Mikhaleva saw her, and the group upon their arrival to Moscow. “With her grasp of the Russian language and everyday culture, Meghan is clearly an asset to the group on this program.”
While in Georgia, O’Loughlin will offer her expertise outside the classroom as well by volunteering with an area arts organization for children. When she returns to the U.S., she plans to pursue a graduate degree in the Russian language and Russian area studies with the goal of teaching Russian at the high school or college level, or teaching Russian students English as a Second Language.
With Georgia as one of its destinations, Fulbright is the largest and most prestigious U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools in more than 140 countries worldwide.