Mingalabar! Greetings from sunny Mawlamyine, Myanmar. It has been about two weeks since I arrived in Mawlamyine. I traveled with members of the Fort Wayne Sister Cities Mawlamyine committee to discuss and conduct our first ESL teacher program. Fort Wayne, Indiana is the first U.S. city to have a Friendship City relationship with a city in Myanmar. [Click here for more info on our Friendship City agreement.]
When the Friendship City agreement was signed in February 2016, leaders and citizens of Mawlamyine expressed their desire to learn more English. Fort Wayne Sister Cities responded by creating the ESL teacher program. I am blessed to be able to serve as a pioneer of this program. Since this is new territory for both Fort Wayne and Mawlamyine, there are plenty of unknowns, which can be both exciting and unsettling for some people. However, as I like to think of it, we can choose to face the unknown with either fear or courage.
For the next 8 weeks, I will be teaching 1-2 classes/day at Mawlamyine University. This is the first time that Mawlamyine University is hosting an American ESL teacher. I’ve been greeted with immense care from all of the members of the Department of English. In fact, when I moved in to my new home, it felt like a housewarming party since there were so many teachers who were present. They welcomed me like family – I am a ‘sister’ to some teachers and ‘daughter’ to others.
Through my conversations with the teachers, I learned that for many of the students, this might be the first time that they encounter a foreigner and a native English speaker. No doubt when I first greeted some of the students, I did get that impression. There are about 800 students in the English department. Class sizes can range from 100 to 200 students. Overall, there are about 10,000 students at Mawlamyine University. With only 32 English teachers, it is very challenging to accommodate each learner’s needs.
For the next few weeks, I will be blogging about and reflecting on my experience as a citizen diplomat, Filipino-American ESL teacher, and an educator-researcher who is committed to international education and global development. Come join me on my journey and I hope you enjoy the ride.
*All views and opinions are solely the author’s.