Imagine Fulbright: Jess Livingston’s experience in the Czech Republic
Jess Livingston ’17 recently began a position as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in the Czech Republic. Having graduated with majors in Public Relations and Graphic Design, she finds herself well suited to teach at the Secondary School of Design and Fashion in Prostejov, where high school aged students study a variety of design-related subjects and prepare for higher education.
Jess helps students improve their conversational skills and expand their understanding of English using visual and interactive learning techniques. While teaching English, she provides her students with a peek into American life. She also collaborates with Google Prague to teach computer coding and programming lessons as part of an initiative to encourage students and young people to pursue computer science.
Jess believes she gained the passion she needed to succeed in her current ETA position while a student at Carthage. She participated in J-Term study tours to Nicaragua and Japan, which gave her experience in communicating across a language barrier and a better understanding of what her students go through as English learners. As a Writing Center fellow, Jess worked with international students on their English skills and learned how to employ visual learning techniques to help students struggling with learning a new language. She created a “visual learners kit” based on research for tutors working with international students. Jess later presented this kit, which includes graphic organizers, interactive props, self-made tutorials, and content worksheets at the International Writing Centers Association conference. She says “[it] has been useful for both English language learners and native English-speaking students who struggle with writing.” Over one summer, Jess worked as a teaching assistant for a special needs class, which she says inspired her to further develop her visual learning and teaching techniques and to eventually apply for an ETA position.
“Jess doesn’t just complete a task,” says professor of Communication and Digital Media, Laura Rodman Huaracha. “She tackles it head-on, takes it apart, solves it, then takes notes on how she can then teach other people on how to complete it in the future. In school, she never did just was required, just as excelling in duties right now in her Fulbright experience. Jess actively finds ways to help people. She will teach herself anything if it means she is helping others. She believes knowledge is a gift, and she strives to deliver that gift to as many people as possible.”
At her school in the Czech Republic, Jess started a variety of extracurriculars, in addition to the coding and programming lessons, to help her students improve their writing and language skills. She created a small writing center at the student boarding house to offer students one-on-one help with writing. She also holds weekly “Coffee with Jess” sessions at a local coffee shop where she helps graduating seniors prepare for higher education by coaching them on professional development subjects, covering topics such as a student’s strengths and weaknesses, cover letters, resumes, portfolios, and interviewing techniques.
The time Jess has spent in the Czech Republic has allowed her to pursue her interests in business. “I also participate in a Strategic Leaders group that I co-founded with a fellow Fulbrighter,” she says. “We meet with business professionals and social entrepreneurs all over the country, while also competing in business and strategy competitions.” As an undergraduate, Jess was an intern for a data analysis firm in Chicago. Aside from teaching and outreach activities, she also takes martial arts lessons and plans to learn how to figure skate.
After Fulbright, Jess hopes to attend graduate school to study experience design and design technology. Eventually she hopes to use her experiences in the Czech Republic to become a professor who brings new perspectives and backgrounds into the classroom. Jess says, “Czech culture will become a part of the way I view the world, and I will carry that perspective with me throughout my own studies, as well as the future classrooms where I will teach and encourage students to learn beyond the pages of a textbook.”
Students and recent alumni interested in applying to the Fulbright program should contact Prof. Dan Choffnes, Director of Student Fellowships.