Katlin Choi, a graduate student in the Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding program at California State University, Dominguez Hills, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Scholarship that will allow her to travel abroad to Macau to teach English as a foreign language during the 2010-11 academic year.
Having earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at UCLA specializing in urban studies, Choi will be working in the English Language Center at the University of Macau (UM) with other Fulbright students to organize and implement extracurricular programs such as field trips and a weeklong English Festival, in English for UM students and assisting with English improvement classes each semester.
Choi is one of over 1,500 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2010-11 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The Los Angeles resident says that she was drawn to the Macau Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program because she wanted to experience the nation’s blending of Portuguese and Chinese cultures and to regain her proficiency in speaking Cantonese. A native of Hong Kong, Choi says that although people tend to expect her to be an authority on Chinese culture, her experiences should be contextualized within an immigrant perspective.
“The Fulbright ETA program will enable me to build a microculture of peace and cultural understanding with the Macau faculty and students through an appreciation of the English language and my unique perspective and experiences as a Chinese-American woman,” says Choi. “I look to share both the American culture through my unique lens as a diasporan, as well as the English language.”
Choi, who grew up and lives in L.A.’s Chinatown, says that she also looks forward to exploring Macau, which once was a colony of Portugal and is a hybrid of both Chinese and European culture.
“Since it is an urban area, albeit small, widely known and advertised as the Las Vegas of the East, I’m excited to explore it on foot and through all my senses,” says Choi. “As as I did with downtown Los Angeles when I was a kid, I think the best way to get to know a place is through my stomach, chowing down with local residents, inhaling the smells, enjoying the scenery, and listening to the locals’ conversations.”
Choi recalls rebelling against the traditional role of a daughter within the Chinese culture, through her experiences at school and the influence of her father.
“My obedience to my parents was tempered by a strict sense of right and wrong, nurtured by my father when I was young,” she says. “He taught me independence of thought and I developed my sense of justice and code of ethics. These values allowed me to withstand incidents of discrimination and sexism from some of my peers, my teachers and my counselors. From the same pool of people, I established wonderful friendships with a diverse and supportive group who taught me to look within myself for the strength and the power to change not only my world, but the world around me.”
Choi is the community partnerships coordinator at the Center for Community Engagement at CSU Long Beach. She works with faculty and community organizations to develop service-learning partnerships. Her experiences include tutoring low-income students at Occidental College’s Upward Bound Program, serving as a mentor for middle school female students through Women and Youth Supporting Each Other, and acting as a college advisor to disadvantaged high school students at UCLA’s Early Academic Outreach Program. She decided to take advantage of the CSU fee waiver for employees and chose Dominguez Hills for its NCRP program, an area that she feels will help in her future endeavors to advocate for social justice.
“Conflicts occur every day to everyone,” she notes. “The program is about instilling deeper self-awareness and recognizing and building upon one’s own strengths [while] developing a set of skills that can be applicable to everyday life, and learning how to be a reflective practitioner while applying those skills.”
Choi looks forward to exploring and understanding the higher education system in Macau as a Fulbright ETA. She hopes to use her expertise with curriculum development and community partnerships to enhance students’ learning outcomes and promote cultural understanding through storytelling. She cites her experience working with high school students in writing workshops for College Summit as an example of how the ability to communicate common experiences can be empowering to youth, particularly those who are academically mid-tier from low-income communities.
“[The students] were able to identify their sources of strength, reflect on various challenges they faced, and speak their own truth…in the stories of their lives,” she says. “I felt deeply appreciative of my position in empowering these highly deserving individuals.
“Through the Fulbright ETA program, I seek to further empower myself and the communities I work with by learning and sharing more ways to build and promote micro-cultures of peace and cultural understanding through the power of authentic storytelling,” she says.
For information on the Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding program at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.