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How gratitude led to a Fulbright teaching assistantship

| Noah Turecek

World-famous boxer Mike Tyson once said: “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.” While many can relate to this in a metaphorical sense, few can understand it literally. I, unfortunately, am one of the few. After an accident in the summer of 2017, I ended up with a broken jaw and was unable to speak clearly or consume anything but liquids. I lost the chance to have an enjoyable summer as well as an IT internship where part of my responsibilities included providing technical support over the phone. However, I gained something completely unexpected, and I will be forever grateful.

While I was healing, one of the few foods that I could enjoy was egg drop soup from the Chinese restaurant down the street from my parents’ apartment. Although I had difficulty communicating because my jaw had been wired shut, the couple who ran the restaurant showed me great kindness on my frequent visits. I was ultimately inspired to find some way to repay them. Reflecting upon my experiences, I decided to enroll in a Chinese class at my university, so I could return home and thank them in their language for treating me normally in a tumultuous time in my life.

 Long story short, I loved every minute of the class and ended up continuing my studies for four more semesters, even studying-abroad for a summer in China. During these classes at my university I met Chinese international students who shared the frustrated and scared look I’m sure I had when trying to convey my simple soup order. I befriended many of them and started spending time with them outside of class. As a result, their English got better and so did my Chinese. I also went with my Chinese class to a local elementary school to teach basic Chinese, with the hopes of inspiring the students to take the Chinese summer school class offered by the school district. We spent the week leading up to our visit practicing, creating a lesson plan, and developing digital content. Throughout all these experiences, I never once thought of myself as a teacher. I was just excited to share something I was passionate about. It felt extremely rewarding especially when the students saw their progress. I saw progress of my own: not only did I learn a new language, but I also watched myself become more patient, a better listener, and a leader.

Fate and curiosity have led me to my passion, and through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship I can help lead others to their own life-changing interests. As an international business and information systems double major, I had never envisioned teaching. Now, I want to intertwine the communication, technology and negotiating skills from my business majors with my cultural aptitude to help others overcome that feeling of bewilderment, much like that Chinese couple in my hometown did for me. I’m incredibly excited to help my Taiwanese students transcend boundaries while gaining a deeper appreciation for another part of the world.