This reflection piece was written by Patricia Corey ’18, currently a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Latvia. She received an Ignite Fund grant in 2018 to travel to Russia as part of a research project titled, “The Moscow Metro System and its Hidden Figures.” Learn more about the Ignite Fund and apply before the April 12 deadline! Read more about Patty’s experience in the Fulbright program in this recent blog post at ProFellow!
In the summer of 2018, I received an international travel grant through the Ignite Fund to pursue my research project entitled, “The Moscow Metro System and its Hidden Figures” by flying to Moscow, Russia for two weeks. It was essential to go to Moscow to analyze and photograph twenty-five metro stations that have been created recently under the Putin administration. Since the Ignite Fund funded all of my travel expenses, I not only was able to photograph these beautifully artistic and unique stations, I also had the opportunity to stay with a Russian host mother yet again, mirroring my semester and Maymester abroad. Now that I am six months into my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant in Liepāja, Latvia, my short time abroad this past summer with the help of the Ignite Fund proves helpful to both my Russian and Latvian language development and communication skills with various people.
Since I stayed with a Russian host mother in June, I was able to brush up my Russian skills before moving to Latvia. Even though it is not essential to know Russian in Latvia to communicate, I felt that the fact that I know Russian well gives me an advantage. Firstly, I am able to learn Latvian easier since Russian and Latvian grammar systems are similar. Secondly, I am able to communicate with Russian-speaking wait staff or colleagues without a translator. For example, just the other week I used my Russian exclusively at Grobiņa High School (11 km outside Liepāja) to communicate with the lead principal of the school. Without my developed Russian language skills, we would have needed a translator, most likely a student, to assist us. To me, speaking Russian in Liepāja seems like a survival language that I only use when either Latvian or English will not suffice. However, in these moments of communicating in sometimes stressful and professional situations, I am thankful for the opportunity to have been able to continue my Russian language skills even after graduation with the help of the Ignite Fund.
Additionally, since my research project combined political, historical, and artistic elements, I have been able to use my metro photographs as inspiration for lesson plans to help me teach English in an interesting, adventurous, and creative way. My project inspired me to always use art as a medium to spark new ideas and imagination, which has led me to also use Latvian, Russian, and French art depicting landscape scenes to help students create their own stories in English. In conclusion, the Ignite Fund’s generosity has helped me complete my research, further my Russian language and Latvian skills, and as given me creative ideas for lessons as a teacher in the U.S. Fulbright Program. This experience has prepared me, in part to communicate and teach well here in Liepāja, Latvia.