Brianne Cotter ’20, a Hispanic studies major and New York City native, has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Colombia.
Cotter became familiar with the Fulbright opportunity thanks to her involvement in the SITES program, in which students teach introductory Spanish to children in grades K-2. “Many seasoned SITES instructors who trained me and taught with me applied for the Fulbright, so it was on my radar,” she says. “Once I gained some international, ESOL teaching experience with an education nonprofit in Hong Kong, I was compelled to apply for the program.”
While in Colombia, Cotter will be a part-time English teaching assistant at a university. The other portion of her time will be devoted to developing an independent project in community education. She hopes to secure a role at a “parque biblioteca,” which translates to library park, an established initiative in Colombia that combines public green spaces and libraries to maximize the benefits of public resources and close the education gap.
Through the Fulbright experience, she hopes to hone her English teaching skills. While the SITES program has been integral in building that knowledge, she explains that she wants to continue advancing. “SITES has given me incredible tools in language pedagogy, but it is always a challenge for me to simplify my sentences and stop using idioms in English,” says Cotter. “Furthermore, I hope to keep improving my Spanish. I am incredibly lucky to have received such great language education here at Oberlin, so I want to keep that momentum.”
Cotter credits her involvement with the Department of Hispanic Studies and SITES as reasons for her interest in teaching, language learning, and travel. During the 2017 Winter Term, she spent time in Guadalajara, Mexico, with Oberlin professors and peers, which she says primed her for travel experiences and learning Spanish. “I feel very grateful to have progressed with such supportive professors and TAs. SITES gave me immense confidence in the classroom, of course, but also in the pre-professional sense of interviewing, making a teaching portfolio, and writing personal statements.”
During her time at Oberlin, Cotter was involved with teaching in other ways, including serving as a teaching assistant for the course Language Pedagogy: The Theory & Practice of Teaching and Learning Languages (EDUA 301) and as an algebra tutor at Langston Middle School through AmericaCounts. She was also a chorister in the Oberlin Musical Union, worked as a docent at Oberlin Heritage Center, built a float for Big Parade, and worked as a breadmaker in the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association.
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