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SHORNIMA KC, Colombia, 2018-2019

Fulbright Year: 2018-2019
Country: Colombia
Proposal Type: English Teaching Assistantship
UGA Undergraduate Major: International Affairs
Graduation Date: Spring 2015
Hometown: Kathmandu, Nepal

Shornima KC moved to the U.S. from Nepal when she was in the seventh grade. As a teacher of English as a second language at a middle school in Memphis, Tennessee, she developed a unique rapport with her students because she, too, learned English as her second language.

“It was especially rewarding seeing my kids learn English like I did at that age,” says Shornima, who also speaks Hindi, Urdu, and Spanish, and has made it a point to learn just as much about culture as she did language.

“My experiences learning languages testify to and inform my ability to form meaningful connections wherever I go,” says Shornima, who also earned a Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic in Oman. “In my pursuit of studying languages, I’ve made a strong commitment to authentically experience the culture of its origins…I’m eager to learn more than the language; I commit myself to learning about the people and culture that speak it.”

Shornima’s Fulbright year will find her teaching English at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Medellin, and she plans to develop a community engagement project to work with special-needs students.

“Having taught students with special needs in the past, I realize that sometimes people view people with special needs as a burden, but I hope to work alongside organizations in Medellin that focus on actualizing the potential of students with special needs as productive and integral members of their community,” she says.

Shornima says she eagerly anticipates the positive feelings her students will experience when they see the progress they’ve made in their pursuit of learning and speaking English.

“Teaching English as a second language in middle school for two years, the moments that were most exciting and rewarding for me were when my students realized how much they've learned and progressed,” she says, adding that she also looks forward to becoming fluent in Spanish. “I'm most looking forward to that ‘Aha!’ moment with my future students.”

Referring to the Fulbright ETA program in Colombia as “an emblem of American friendship and goodwill,” Shornima says this experience will enable her to move forward with her long-term career goal, which is to have all students make the most out of the educational opportunities offered in the United States.

“When the American education system works properly, it is capable of taking kids from the most adverse backgrounds and turning them into successful, high-achieving citizens,” she says. “When the system fails, it’s a tragedy magnified by the promise and potential it held. I became an educator to work toward fixing the insufficiencies of this system.”

Upon completion of her Fulbright experience, Shornima says she plans to work in education policy and reform with a focus on low-income and immigrant communities.

“When I return, I will continue to teach and pursue a master’s degree in education policy,” she says. “This will deepen my understanding of the complexities of forming and advocating successful education policies. I will work in partnership with 50CAN, an organization that advocates for the right of all children to have equal access to quality education.”