Those Who Can, Teach

May 20, 2020

Erich Burnett

double degree student Rania Adamczyk.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Rania Adamczyk

Rania Adamczyk ’20 plots a course for India through a Fulbright teaching assistantship.

Oberlin Conservatory experienced a record year in 2019-20 with five students named Fulbright Finalists. We are proud to share their stories in this series.


Quests for knowledge and fascination with teaching have been lifelong themes for Rania Adamczyk. So it’s fitting that a Fulbright opportunity would indulge both of those passions.

Adamczyk is the recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistantship, one of five Fulbright Finalists from Oberlin Conservatory for 2020-21. In the coming year, she will teach English to young people and engage with cinema culture and arts education in India.

For Adamczyk, it’s a natural extension of work she’s been doing for years. The daughter of two teachers from Lake Bluff, Illinois, she divided her time at Oberlin between coursework—pursuing a double degree in composition and cinema studies—and numerous initiatives across campus and in the community.

On campus, she served as a founding coordinator of Oberlin’s Peer Advising Leaders program, through which older students mentor first-years as they adjust to life in the college and conservatory. She was a member of the Oberlin Community Board and an advisor to the Oberlin Strategic Plan Implementation Committee, tasked with representing the student body in matters pertaining to the institution’s pivotal One Oberlin initiative.

She also worked as a math tutor with area schoolchildren and took part in a program called Philosophy in the School, through which she facilitated philosophical discussions with second-graders.

All the while, Adamczyk honed her facility with the Hindi language in a number of ways, from viewing subtitled news reports and films, to voracious reading, journaling, and regular conversations with Hindi-speaking faculty and friends. It’s a process similar to what she experienced through two years spent living in a Spanish-speaking residence hall.

Through it all, she has become increasingly aware of variations in learning style, especially among those who are less verbal. She counts among her favorite Oberlin classes a course in creative education and another in friendship studies, both of which have played key roles in her own pedagogical development.

Adamczyk’s interest in India stems from her love of its film culture and its history of engaging with issues ranging from nation-building and globalization to climate change.

“When I started watching Indian cinema in college, I was really awed by all these movies from Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, and Mumbai that I couldn't believe the whole world wasn't raving about,” she says. “When it got to the point where I was downloading electronic textbooks to learn Hindi, it only seemed right to sign up for a course on the history of the industry now popularly known as ‘Bollywood.’ That's how I was fortunate enough to connect with an amazing Oberlin mentor, English professor Anu Needham.

Hers is the first class where I remember saying things that a professor challenged me on; instead of class discussions being a chance for everyone to lay out their thoughts and then go home, hers always left me with the feeling that I didn't have every piece of the puzzle yet, that I had lots to learn—and with a zestful excitement to get cracking and learn it.”

Immersed in the arts since childhood, Adamczyk learned the value of social creativity from a young age, and she looks forward to forging connections with her Indian community through theater and music, and facilitating discussions about art from other regions of the world.

“Indian cinema has a very conscious history of social engagement and continues to have a sense of being in active conversation with society, for better and for worse,” she says. “As someone deeply interested in the power of accessible arts to educate, build empathy, and broaden horizons, I want to learn from Indian cinema's approach in a meaningful way. And there's a lot to learn, because the different cinema industries and cinemagoing cultures in different parts of India have their own distinct equation.”

Back in the U.S., Adamczyk hopes to build upon her Fulbright experience through film and through work in education policy.

“Being a Fulbrighter is a fantastic opportunity to take social and creative initiatives I've been learning about and helping maintain here at Oberlin and take them out into the big, wide world,” she says. “For example, I've been working with a Professor of Middle East and North African studies Jafar Mahallati, who has an inspiring belief in the power of friendship as a worldview, to create a practice of friendship-oriented, multicultural musicmaking. That's a practice that I can and will be looking to continue with new groups of people during my Fulbright year.”

In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Fulbright has delayed the start of many students’ international experiences and canceled others altogether. Adamczyk anticipates a June 2021 start date for her assistantship.

“You can see a lot of what makes Oberlin great in Rania’s Fulbright application,” says Nick Petzak, Oberlin’s director of fellowships and awards. “She has developed broad interests in inherently interdisciplinary pursuits like film scoring, and she credits her interests in Hindi and South Indian cinema to pursuits outside either of her majors. Rania hopes to produce international, cross-cultural cinema that helps to educate ‘broad-minded, ambitious, and compassionate citizens of the world,’ as she puts it. That is already a pretty good description of Rania!”

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