A “Typical” Day as a Fulbright ETA

by theadventuresofbeka

I put typical in quotation marks due to the fact that each ETA’s experience is different in many ways. Plus, my days here have a lot of variation, because I have a biweekly schedule and see a total of 27 different classes over a 2-week time span.

Yesterday I got up around 8AM and made coffee. As I drank my coffee, I finalized my lesson plans for the day. I try to not wait until the last minute, but sometimes circumstances prevent me from doing so. This time, it was because I unexpectedly ended up traveling all weekend (blog post about that coming later). Other times, it’s because professors don’t send me emails with what they want me to teach until the day before.

After finalizing my lesson plans and making sure that they lined up with what the professors had requested by email, I got ready for the day and headed to the print shop. There are quite a few little print shops on campus (you can find them off campus too) where you can print from a computer, make copies, recharge your cellphone and buy basic office supplies and snacks. I got stuck there for longer than I expected because there were a ton of students and professors who needed to print. This process can be rather chaotic at times, because like most stores in Colombia, the print shops are not self-serve and waiting your turn is not as highly respected in Colombian culture as it is in American culture. You have to request the copies and candies that you want and the person behind the counter gets them for you. I learned the hard way that I shouldn’t bother to have the print shop staple my items for me. It adds another five minutes to my wait, and I can do it much quicker myself.

After getting my copies for my first class of the day, Inglés II, I headed over to my class which is in the same building. About 50% of the students I pass greet me, because I know a huge number of students in the language department due to all the different classes I teach in and this wing of the building is all language department classes. I hung out outside the classroom until around 10:15 when the professor showed up. The classrooms are always locked in the Central Building. The professor has to go to the office to get the key. Although, in general, Colombians are not as timely as Americans, it’s not always the professors’ faults that they show up late. Classes are booked back to back, so that makes scheduling and timing difficult.

I taught my class. The topic of the day was gender roles. I started with this article and then transitioned into a dialogue about current and past gender roles in Colombia. The students were really engaged which I was really happy about. As is usual in my classes, a few students straggled in 20-30 minutes late. After finishing my class at 11AM, I got a coffee, empanada and chocolate bar at one of the places that sells snack food on campus for a total of $2.00USD and worked on outlining a lesson for Friday. I then walked back home in order to respond to emails and continue planning for the rest of the week.

I squeezed in a run during this time also. I’m running a 10K this weekend and I’m definitely not well prepared. I’ve been sick so I haven’t been running regularly. I cleaned up after my run and then headed to my next class, Gramática I, which started at 2PM. This class was also on gender roles, because it was the same professor as Inglés II and he allowed me to pick the topic. I try to overlap my classes as much as possible, because planning 14 classes a week is very time consuming.

This class was also very engaged in the topic. I changed my expectations a bit due to them being at a higher level. It was interesting because as we were listing gender roles, one of the students vehemently declared that what I was writing on the board wasn’t true. It opened up a really great discussion about how society’s expectations are not always reasonable or accurate for both men and women. After finishing this class at 3Pm, I headed to Gramática II. This class is hardcore grammar. This professor has me teach topics such as noun clauses and correlative conjunctions. For this class, I had students analyze examples of different correlative conjunctions and determine what the meaning and grammar rules were. I then had them fill the board with all the information they had determined and I reviewed it with them.

This class went longer than I expected, so I arrived late to my tutoring session. Tutoring at UPTC is often a madhouse, because most students are required to attend tutoring by their professors, but the tutoring sessions are structured to be one-on-one and not in groups. I managed to help 8 different students but I was still leaving a few behind at 5:10 when I finally left. My last class of the day was with a professor who had told me she was probably cancelling class. I verified this on my way out by checking the room and then headed home. Once home, I ate dinner and spent a couple of hours finishing up the majority of my lesson plans for the week. After  finishing planning, I Skyped my boyfriend and then went to bed.

So, that’s a “typical” day here at UPTC for a Fulbright ETA. Some days I have more classes. Some days I have fewer. Some days I’m running from one end of campus to the other trying to figure out where my class is because the room got changed at the last minute.  Sometimes, we don’t have classes because students in masks and white outfits, carrying bags of potato bombs, shut the buildings down in order to make a political statement. (This picture is from last Friday, when I managed to experience leftover tear gas even though I wasn’t involved in the protests).

I'm thinking I don't have class today…

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