Five international teaching fellows have the opportunity to work in Bowdoin’s language departments while also exploring American culture this year.
Teaching fellows are typically selected from competitive application processes at international universities with which Bowdoin has longstanding partnerships. This year, the teaching fellows come to Bowdoin from Colombia, France, Germany and Italy.
Xiomara Albornoz, originally from Bogotá, Colombia, is happy to have been chosen to work in the Spanish department. As a teaching fellow, Albornoz helps students to improve their speaking and writing abilities in weekly labs. She said she particularly enjoys assisting students in making their poetry more expressive.
Many of Albornoz’s students have become her close friends, but this can be “really difficult.” Being both a student and a teacher at Bowdoin, Albornoz said she sometimes feels like she has to put up “barriers” at social events so that she doesn’t compromise her professional relationships with her students.
“In my culture, we are always partying,” she said. “There’s a lot of conflict because I should behave like a teacher.”
“We just fall in that gap—we aren’t students really but we aren’t teachers either,” added Gaëlle Jaouen, who studied English and Celtic at the University of Western Brittany in Brest, France. Jaouen helps some of her French students to prepare scenes from Moliere’s “Tartuffe, ou l’Imposteur.” She noted that her students are motivated and enjoy acting.
Outside of her various responsibilities as a teaching fellow, Jaouen participates in many campus activities including the French radio show “Pardon My French” on WBOR, LGBT advocate training and archery with the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC).
“I’ve never had a schedule filled up with that many different things,” she said. “It’s actually the first time in my life I have to use a calendar.”
“As teaching fellows, we can attend two classes per semester, which is awesome,” said Lauriane Pegon, another French teaching fellow. She audits both a dance class and an educational psychology class, “which is a crazy mixture. In France you can’t do that.”
Pegon said she is enjoying the opportunity to speak on the radio show “Pardon my French.”
“I love sharing my culture and my language—and discovering other cultures,” she said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
In past years, Pegon has studied at Glasgow University in Scotland and worked as a French language assistant at Durham University in England. Next year, she will be teaching English in France.
Pegon also participates in a choir on campus, hopes to become a member of an a cappella group next semester.
“When you’re a teaching fellow, you can only stay one year so you have to make the most of that year and try different things,” she said.
Susanne Matejka, a teaching fellow in the German department, is currently working on a Master’s degree in teaching at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. When she leaves Bowdoin, she will travel throughout North America and hopes to teach German and English after earning her degree.
“I never knew that so many people would be interested in learning German,” Matejka said. Matejka meets with German students for 30 minute conversations each week. She sometimes works with Birgit Tautz, an associate professor of German, to plan in-class activities.
Matejka also heads the German Table, where she shares German culture with students and professors. A local family even invited her to lunch, and she was able to enjoy foods that she had missed from home.
The transition to America is not always smooth for the teaching fellows.Moving from Colombia’s largest city to Brunswick was hard for Albornoz, but canoeing and hiking with the BOC helped to make the transition smoother. Albornoz said her favorite thing about living in Maine is being surrounded by nature.
Transitioning from life in Naples to the small town of Brunswick was also difficult for Fulvia Sarnelli, the teaching fellow in the Italian department. Sarnelli enjoyed a trip to New York City she took with the other teaching fellows over Fall Break. “It’s big, its messy, its noisy, its always alive so it’s like being at home,” she said.
Still, many of the fellows noted that the company of the other fellows helps ease the various pressures they face. Sarnelli has been under a lot of pressure lately to meet deadlines for her Ph.D. in English and Chinese literature. She has been glad to receive support from her colleagues. “They were amazing,” she said, “all of them knocking on my door asking, ‘Do you want a five minute break? Do you want a coffee?’ They really made my life easier.”