Hikayat 5: Abdelkrim Benqdad

Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program for International Teachers (DAI) 2017/2018

When I first applied for a Fulbright grant as a teacher in 2012, I didn’t have a well-rounded idea about how this program/ experience would have such a tremendous impact on me both as a person and a practitioner in the education field. The more time passes by, the more rewards unfold, and opportunities for development and growth lay ahead.

My successful application and journey started in 2017, and my main proposal was exploring ways of enhancing cultural awareness in an EFL extracurricular context. Upon completion of a totally immersing and eye-opening journey in the US, the lifelong one has started since.

It’s a big challenge for a one-thousand-word blogpost to grasp the whole picture details, but I will attempt to approach the task from two main perspectives, namely the personal and the professional.

1- At the personal level:

Being a member of a worldwide community of Fulbright alumni belonging to a wide range of exchange experiences has enhanced and widened my global-minded attitudes and strengthened bonds with colleagues here and elsewhere in the world. Like-minded people and educationalists have always been there, and Fulbright program has made it possible to connect with these and allowed for fruitful learning opportunities to arise and flourish.

The period I spent in the US offered me the chance to learn about the various cultures of my international colleagues in the program through cultural days and events. I could also develop a sense of appreciation to all the picturesque cultures of the US residents wherever I attended a celebration or joined an event.

My network is getting larger and richer through the connections I have been able to make be it face to face (both in Morocco and the US) or within the virtual world like professional development groups or interest groups on social media.

Other social events and Fulbright family meetings and orientation gatherings helped me make new friendships and with teachers from different states of the USA, and with various educational backgrounds.

I now feel blessed to be a member of this large family whom I can resort to for guidance and recommendation or even sharing purposes. I am a better global citizen, an agent of change and a better version of myself.

2- At the professional level:

Upon my return to my country, and drawing on my previous involvement in Access program both as a teacher and coordinator for eight years, I could start a cultural club, run by students on a weekly basis. Rehearsals took place and cultural activities in various modes such as museums, fashion shows, presentations, drama, guest speakers were conducted by excited, talented students…etc. In partnership with parents’ association and administration, two cultural shows were successfully organized and certificates as well as prizes were distributed.

In 2019, and in response to my application to the IREX program “Fulbright teachers for Global classrooms”, I hosted two Fulbright teachers (Rachel Caldwell, and Abby Becker) for a ten-day period during which they were able to discover and get insights about our educational system, and the different types of educational institutions students can enroll in. They also shared their experience as Fulbright teachers with professionals in many educational institutes they visited.

Later, I had the chance to invite another Fulbright teacher (Julie Fouhy) to my school and organize a meeting with students, where many sharing and cultural discussions took place.

Earlier, I could involve my students in virtual cultural discussions with their American peers in Lehighton high school Pennsylvania, through coordinating efforts with another Fulbright passionate teacher (Cristi Marchetti), the event that featured in local media in the USA.

The club is planning to keep nurturing the cultural life in the high school and provide opportunities for students to thrive and showcase their talents! Thank you Fulbright!

The journey has already started and more benefits are unfolding in the process…. 😊

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