Sunday, November 11, 2012

1 November: A Ukrainian's Day in the USA

Today's post comes from a guest blogger, Oksana Chugai, a colleague who is an English teacher in Kyiv. You'll recall [or read in the preceding post] that November 1 was the third A Day in the Life of Ukraine project and because I wasn't in Ukraine, I celebrated by writing about A Day in the Life of the USA. Since Oksana was also in the US on November 1, she decided to do the same. Thank you, Oksana!

(As the results from ADITLOU3 become available, Andrew and Logan will post them HERE! Stay tuned!)

It's the third time I participate in this project. As a TESOL-Ukraine member, I received invitations from ETRC (Kyiv Mohyla Academy) and personally from Melissa Krut. I think, this project is very important because it gives a glimpse of one day in the life of many different people. When I read the submissions of others, I was amazed how much I learned not only about others, but about myself as well. Now I am in
Washington DC and I am going to describe my day in Claremont, CA, where I spent six weeks as a participant of TEA Program (IREX).

Oksana, second from left, and other TEA Fellows, on 1 Nov.

One Day in the Life Of Ukraine [in the USA!]
Oksana Chugai

It is chilly in the morning, but roses are in bloom, the trees are green in Claremont, California. We usually walk to the university instead of taking a hotel shuttle - we chat, plan our day, at the same time we admire the front yards of the cottages on the way which are fully decorated for Halloween. Our usual company - Monica from Romania, Nadia from Kazakhstan, Ximena from Ecuador, Natalia from Ukraine. There are twenty-one participants in our group - we are called TEA-Fellows. We all are teachers of English in different countries all over the world. To study here, in Claremont Graduate University, we went through a tough competition. Today I have other thoughts on my mind - I present my "Onion Project" which is one of the assignments of TLCC Class, which means "Teaching Language in Cultural Context". The task is to "unpeel the onion" - to take one layer after another to analyze the system of education in the USA in comparison with the systems of education of our home countries.

Now we are in the university. We enter the building, which reminds me of a maze, because it has several entrances and even different names. We worked three hours, as usual. My "Onion Project" was at least unusual, because I invited the Fellows for a virtual lunch in a popular spot "Square Onion". I was not going to unpeel the onion - I was going to cut it to start from the very core. The teacher or educator is in the core of the system of education, so I was going to concentrate on the influences of school, region, culture on the educator. Then I focused my investigation on classroom management, planning and assessment in the USA and Ukraine. To conclude, I presented influences of the educators on school, region and culture. I chose my favourite pictures - the classroom of my partner teacher at Montclair High School, the library, the contract between a student, her or his parents and a teacher, creative works of students in Honors Class...

It was challenging to be in the classroom and not to participate. It is especially  challenging when you are in a foreign country in a class with students you don't know and you are supposed to collaborate with a teacher you meet for the first time. But we, teachers and students, in spite of all the differences, are basically the same. During six weeks we, Fellows, took interviews in school, studied Yearbooks, explored different areas of school life. We helped each other by sharing  information, sometimes teasing, sometimes scolding. That is why I managed to complete my "Onion Project" - it is something I will bring to my home country. It is the evidence that eight weeks spent in the USA were not just my holidays.

After class we go to the cafeteria on campus to have lunch. It is our favourite spot - in spite of being crowded, it is always open and friendly, it is usually full of teasing smells. Students use bicycles or skateboards to move round the campus, so there are plenty of them near the entrance. What I love about this cafeteria is choice - it is not obligatory to eat soup or meat, you just choose what you want, go to your table and enjoy your meal. Then you take something else. And then more - students are always hungry!

After lunch I say good-bye to my friends and go to the library. It is my favourite place on campus - it is a huge space for everyone. You may sit anywhere, or even lie comfortably on a sofa, putting your shoes nearby.

What I usually do - because of the lack of time I scan the books I need and save the articles or thesis as PDF documents. As a postgraduate student, I should use this opportunity to get as much as possible from my stay here. Now it is time to return home, which is the DoubleTree Hotel.

It was a bit unusual first not to see many people in the streets, but now I do not worry - people go jogging, they walk with their dogs, and shops are still open.

It is getting dark. I hurry back to the hotel, all the streets now familiar and full of memories. In the lobby I ask for a chocolate chip cookie - they are delicious here, not too sweet, warm and soft. I drink a cup of coffee, eat my cookie and look at the palm trees which become darker and darker. Somewhere nearby I hear voices of TEA-Fellows, chatting and laughing. When we speak with each other, we speak English, but when we Skype, we speak different languages - Spanish, Russian, French, and lots of others. Then I go to the swimming pool and cool water gives me energy to continue my day. It is nearly over - Thursday, the first of November. We are planning the next weekend here, but we are thinking about our families, our students, colleagues left at home. Soon it will be over, we return to our home countries and live our usual lives. But this day we will never forget.

TEA Fellows- TLCC class


  1. This is a fabulous description of your day - exceptionally well written. I could visualize each part of your day as you traveled through it. Great!!

  2. Thank you, Carleen. Taking into consideration HOW I was writing it - in a hurry, before the breakfast, on the very last day in Washington, in a crowded computer room in a hotel...Usually I have several drafts before the final variant, but this time I just didn't have time. Thank you, these weeks in Claremont are the most memorable for all of us.