Sonia Giebel ’14 Awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship
Sonia Giebel ’14 walked down the aisle at Commencement just one month ago, but she is already preparing for another life-changing journey. The Seattle native has earned a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) and will spend the upcoming year in Vietnam.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have taught in international settings [before],” says Giebel, who assisted in an English class while studying abroad in Vienna, Austria, and briefly served as a guest teacher of English in Vietnam as a high school senior. “I was itching for more international teaching experience after graduating from Haverford. The Fulbright ETA was a perfect opportunity.”
Giebel, one of only 15 chosen for the Vietnam ETA, will first travel to Hanoi in early August for a four-week orientation. She will then move to her placement, Ouang Nam University in Tam Ky, a coastal town in the south central part of the country. Once there, she will work 30-hour weeks that will be split between teaching and planning language classes and participating in “cross-cultural” student activities. As such, the former Haverford English major and sociology and educational studies minor is looking forward to either joining or coaching a local soccer club in her spare time.
This upcoming trip, which Giebel hopes will be a first step towards a career in education reform, policy, or advocacy, will not be her first time in Vietnam. She traveled there three times before, most recently and most formatively, at 17, with her father, a professor of Southeast Asian studies.
“That [last] experience catalyzed my interests in Vietnam and English-language teaching,” she says. “I actually remember coming home from my first day teaching in Quang Tri and telling my dad I wanted to become a teacher. I think that was the first time I appreciated teaching and its potential for cross-cultural understanding—even as I taught English, I absorbed Vietnamese language and culture, and that exchange was the most rewarding aspect of my experience there.”
The ETA program places Americans in classrooms overseas to supplement local English language instruction and to provide a native speaker presence in classrooms. The grantees not only help teach the English language, but also serve as ambassadors for U.S. culture.
In addition to her prescribed duties at the University, Giebel is interested in learning Vietnamese and taking cooking classes. Mostly, though, she is looking forward to integrating herself into the local community.
“Haverford taught me a lot of things, but perhaps nothing more important than the value of community,” says Giebel. “I’m hoping to build another one in the coming year.”
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