Assistant Professor Vessela Ilieva completes second Fulbright trip
Jeanette Blain | News Editor | [email protected]
Earlier this summer, Assistant Professor Vessela Ilieva visited Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, where she spent three weeks teaching at Zhezkazgan Baikonurov University through a grant from the Fulbright Specialist Program.
The Fulbright Specialist Program, run by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, awards grants to faculty and professionals to travel to foreign countries to lecture and research. Grants for the program are designed to help U.S. scholars and professionals build partnerships at host institutions in different countries through short-term visits.
While in Kazakhstan, Ilieva taught undergraduate-level students for the first two weeks and then held workshops for local faculty and administrators on the final week.
At UVU, Ilieva teaches “pre-service teachers,” who are training to teach English as a second language. She said she modified her curriculum for the trip because the Kazakhstan students were learning to teach English as a foreign language.
Ilieva, who has taught at UVU’s School of Education since 2010, said that even though she went to Kazakhstan to teach, what she learned from the experience will benefit her own curriculum.
“Every time you work with students in a classroom, it’s such a rich environment,” Ilieva said.
She said that the exposure to a different kind of educational system was a valuable experience. The trip gave her the opportunity to interact with students one-on-one and to be part of the undergraduate level experience in Kazakhstan.
“The mission of the scholarship is really to establish a cross-cultural understanding and communication,” Ilieva said. “It was a very enriching experience for me.”
Ilieva was also able to travel to different regions of Kazakhstan, where she got to see natural and cultural sites. She also made numerous visits to a variety of schools, both public and private.
She said wherever she went in Kazakhstan, she was impressed by the respect and the value that is put on education.
Ilieva said that education is now a global endeavor. It can’t be viewed as something that is just happening between classroom walls.
Recipients of the Fulbright Specialist scholarship are able to apply for two trips within a five-year period. This is Ilieva’s second Fulbright Specialist grant; in 2013, Ilieva was able to complete a two-week teaching trip in Russia.
Before returning to the U.S. in July, Ilieva traveled to Athens, Greece where she presented on innovative approaches to teaching robotics to elementary schools at the 17th International Conference on Education.