Michael Pflueger

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Michael Pflueger was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in South Africa in 2013.

On his experience:

"It all started while I was working as a graduate assistant at the center for multicultural affairs.  CRF had been very supportive of the students we were serving and I decided that it would be worth discussing opportunities for myself with the office.  Hanna Lee who was there at the time, helped me decide to apply for the Fulbright ETA grant to South Africa.  I was very busy during my final fall semester with graduate classes and my work at the CMA and it can be an intimidating endeavor applying for nationally competitive scholarships, but Hanna and the staff were extremely supportive and worked around my schedule as I progressed through the application process. The staff at CRF read more drafts of my application essays than I care to count and they continually challenged me to improve until I was confident to submit the application.

During my Fulbright grant I was teaching math and English at Zwelibanzi high school which is located in Umlazi, the third biggest township in all of South Africa.  The classrooms were overcrowded and the resources were sparse, but the students were some of the hardest working that I have ever met.  There are huge challenges that you face when teaching in a country that stills bears the artifacts of an unjust apartheid government, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges.  There was a palpable energy and enthusiasm at the school. It starts from the first bell in the morning with traditional singing and dancing, and lasts all the way through the day until late afternoon within the wide range of clubs and activities the students participate in.  In addition to teaching, I got involved with assisting students to start a guitar club, a math club, and a creative writing club. and I was also able to assist another ETA in preparing students for a provincial science fair.

Another way CRF helped me was by connecting me with people who had advice about living and teaching in South Africa.  It can be overwhelming trying to prepare for living in a country for an extended period of time, so every contact is valuable.  CRF also connected me with other Villanova students who were awarded grants and scholarships for the same time period as me.  I was able to collaborate with another Villanova alumni who was teaching in Malaysia and we were able to set up a letter exchange between one of her classes and one of mine at Zwelibanzi.

Living in South Africa was an unforgettable experience, and I loved my time at Zwelibanzi.  I also appreciated having the chance to explore the diversity of environments in surrounding areas, from awe-inspiring landscapes and mountains, amazing wildlife, and colossal sand dunes. I am extremely thankful for CRF supporting me both before and during my Fulbright grant."

Read more about Michael's experiences on his blog!

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