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Interview with QuiAnne’ Holmes

Describe your post-graduate international experience(s) or program(s).

I served as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Colombia, South America through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. I was placed at Universidad Autónoma de Occidente (UAO), which is a private university in Cali (the most populous city in southwest Colombia, and the salsa capital). The focus of my work was incorporating new strategies into the classroom. During my time, I co-taught English classes of various levels, emphasizing on language acquisition and writing. In addition, I created a free English Conversation Club called S.W.E.E.T (Students Who Exercise English Together) that would provide a safe space for the students to practice their English outside the classroom.

How did you find out about this program or opportunity?

In all honesty, I never heard about the Fulbright program before I applied. I happened to receive an email from the fellowships and scholarships department detailing available scholarships and I reached out to see if it would be possible to start working on an application. It wasn’t something that I would have known about had I not received the initial email. Additionally, I did not know the actual prestige of receiving the award until after I won. Ironically, I am grateful of the naivety because it granted me a less stressful application process.

What are some highlights of your experience abroad?

The most memorable experience that I had in Colombia was my social project. As previously mentioned, I created an English Conversation Club called SWEET (Students Who Exercise English Together) that allowed students to come practice their English with a native speaker. When I created this club I never knew what would be the result in attendance or effect. I only knew that students wanted an opportunity to practice their English in a non-judgmental space and to have fun while doing so. Little did I know I would gain several friends and learn more about my identity in the process. I will be forever grateful for the students and despite the challenges that came with it I would never change the experience for the world.  I am proud to say that I have remained best friends and share a bond with another Fulbrighter that I cherish dearly.

I was also fortunate to have time to travel and explore Colombia which made me appreciate my stay even more. Pushing myself to go beyond the familiarity of Cali helped me to build lifelong relationships.

My final highlight will always be the festivals and celebrations that I was invited to participate and take part in.

What advice do you have for NC State students considering going abroad after graduation?

Well, to the extent possible have a study abroad experience.

Fulbright is a ten-month commitment and it can be hard on your mental, physical, and emotional health. You should also be ready to step outside of your comfort zone. If you are not accustomed to change, this is not the opportunity for you. Along with this, every day will bring something new. Some things will be large and life changing and others will be small nuisances that won’t make much of a difference, but you still have to be prepared for them. You also need to have a support system because you will want to share your experiences, good or bad, with someone. You cannot and should not keep anything bottled up on the inside. Spend time with your family and friends before you leave! I cannot stress this enough. Lastly, remember you are not a hero. You are a normal human being who has a job to do. Don’t ever lose sight of that. Build relationships with your colleagues, your students, and others. Don’t wear your identity on your sleeve; it is very easy to do so and even a privilege. You can have many rules, preferences, and desires but it doesn’t mean that the environment that you are in will adhere to these things. Therefore, be ready for anything and open to challenges.

This post was originally published in Study Abroad.