Breathing New Life Into My Research Through Fulbright

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By Florentina Halimi, Ph.D., Lecturer in Applied Linguistics, State University of Tetovo, Macedonia 
2011-2012 Fulbright Visiting Scholar to Fordham University

There are some events that change the way we look at our world, the way we view ourselves, and the way we see our work. Fulbright helped me reevaluate my actions, attitudes, and the efforts I bring to my academic and personal undertakings. It had always been my wish to publish papers and teach in an American university. The Fulbright Program helped my dream to come true. But Fulbright was just the beginning of a journey that took me and my family to new challenges and adventures we could not have anticipated.

After completing my Ph.D. from Vienna University, I decided to pursue postdoctoral studies in educational leadership to fulfill as many components as possible of what I considered a successful academic postdoctoral experience. I was selected as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar in 2011-2012 to the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University in New York City, and my family accompanied me to the United States on my Fulbright journey. During my grant, I taught a Master’s-level course and conducted research in Educational Leadership. I was excited to work with American students. My most memorable experience was the first time I stood in front of my students and was introduced as a Fulbright instructor by my faculty advisor, Dr. Carolyn Brown, and my colleague, Dr. Aida Nevarezalatorre.

At Fordham University with Dr. Aida Nevarezalatorre (left), and Dr. Carolyn Brown (right)

My teaching experience was incredible, and I learned as much from the class as the students did. However, while the teaching experience was fun, it was also challenging. Each one of my student teachers had a different level of experience, different teaching strategies, and different topics they wanted to study. This made it challenging to try to get everyone on the same page, but in the end, the course outcomes were excellent.

Fordham University, MA Students at the Graduate School of Education

Besides teaching, I was also interested in researching teacher leadership and student motivation in higher education. Fordham University’s Center for Educational Partnership helped me conduct this research by allowing me to visit several universities and educational institutions in and around New York City, such as City University of New York, Long Island University, Queen's College, New York University, and Long Island/Westchester Bilingual & ESL Teacher Leadership Academy.

When I returned home to Macedonia, many universities invited me to deliver speeches and workshops about the teacher-leader model in higher education. One of the tasks I most enjoyed was to help new instructors develop their teaching philosophy by steering them to make the connection between personal learning experiences and the reasons for using a particular teacher-leader approach.

After my first successful international teaching experience, I decided to expand my teaching and research experience in the Middle East and applied for a teaching position at the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) in Kuwait. In October of 2016, I was appointed to direct the newly-established Center for Teaching, Learning and Research in collaboration with my colleagues on the GUST Education Department, Dr. Iqbal AlShammari and Dr. Cathy Daniel. With the GUST Education research team, I have also been a senior author and co-author of several papers in educational psychology focusing on student motivation in higher education in Kuwait.

Kuwait Times Daily Newspaper: The Launching of the GUST Center for Teaching learning and Research

And coming full circle, in a way, while working and living in Kuwait, I received an invitation to attend the amazing American German Fulbright Seminar in Berlin, which again expanded my academic network and showed me the beauty of international collaboration. I enjoyed sharing my research experience with the worldwide Fulbright community in Berlin by meeting the keynote speakers for research collaboration, creating connections with researchers of similar interests, and attending the extra-curricular seminar program. The seminar was valuable as a means of connecting with others and learning about the positive social changes achieved by other Fulbrighters.  The experience highlighted for me the impactful role Fulbrighters have as "bridge builders.” 

 
The Berlin German-American Fulbright Seminar 2018 
 
I believe that the stages of my life as a Fulbright Scholar can serve as an example for future Fulbrighters and their families. We can never predict where the future may lead us. My husband and I continue to work in our areas of expertise: he is working as a medical doctor at Al Razi governmental hospital, and I teach and conduct research in educational psychology at GUST in Kuwait.