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mckinley alden, bulgaria, 2015-2016
Fulbright Scholar McKinley Alden

Fulbright Year: 2015-2016
Country: Bulgaria
Proposal Type: English Teaching Assistantship
UGA Undergraduate Majors: Linguistics, Germanic and Slavic Studies
Graduation Date: Spring 2015 (Bachelor’s)
Hometown: Decatur, Georgia

McKinley Alden will serve as an English teaching assistant at the Peyo Yavarov Foreign Language School in Silistra, Bulgaria. An advanced speaker of both Russian and German, McKinley hopes to learn to speak Bulgarian, expand his knowledge of Slavic culture, and sharpen his teaching skills while abroad.

“As an assistant in Bulgaria, I will spend my time studying Bulgarian language and literature in order to round out my understanding of Slavic culture and prepare myself to be a productive contributor to my field,” says McKinley, who is preparing for an academic career in Slavic linguistics. “This means producing work that will encourage students and other professionals to pursue studies in less widely known languages, especially ones with strong historical roots, such as Bulgarian.

“Inspiring students to study a language involves not only teaching grammar and lexicon, but also providing a greater cultural framework that will contextualize the language. The best way that I can provide these resources to my contemporaries and students is by serving as a teaching assistant in Bulgaria.”

With any free time he’ll have in Bulgaria, McKinley says he’ll explore and engage in the community where he lives.

“I am most eager to get involved in the community; I was glad to be placed in a small, rural town, as opposed to a bustling city, because I can more easily form lasting relationships with the community through language, music, and cultural exchange,” McKinley says.

“One of my goals is to institute an English language conversation table, where not only students, but parents, friends, family, and anyone else can come, eat, drink, and enjoy practicing English outside a controlled classroom environment.”

A member of UGA’s Demosthenian Literary Society and a bus driver on campus, McKinley also conducted extended research in linguistics under Dr. Vera Lee-Schoenfeld while at UGA and has presented at several undergraduate conferences, including the Undergraduate Linguistics Conference at Cornell University and GLEEFUL at Michigan State University.

At the conclusion of his Fulbright term, McKinley will enroll in a Ph.D. program in linguistics with a focus on Slavic linguistics and phonology.

“I hope that the language skills and cultural perspectives I learn while abroad will shape and direct research that will contribute to my field,” McKinley, who spent several months in 2014 studying Russian at Middlebury College in Vermont, says. “I hope that after teaching English for 10 months in Bulgaria, I will know how to not only impart linguistic knowledge, but cultural knowledge to a range of students as well.”

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