Posted on Thursday, April 19, 2012
Trevor Gionet '12 has been selected to receive a Fulbright Teaching Assistant grant to Vietnam. This highly competitive program selected just 10 students to receive a position in Vietnam. In addition to teaching English at a collegiate level, Gionet will learn to teach math - in Vietnamese.
"You often think of math as a universal language, but it's not necessarily true; learning mathematical terminology in other languages is very difficult," explains Gionet, a mathematics major. "I've talked with many Vietnamese students and many have found that their math classes are some of the hardest in terms of translation. I hope to help bridge that gap for students in the future."
The Fulbright Program is the U.S. Government's flagship international exchange program. Created in 1949, the program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and numerous nations around the world. Participants are chosen for their academic merit and leadership qualities, and are given the opportunity to study, live, teach and conduct research abroad for one year in order to exchange ideas and seek solutions to shared global concerns.
Gionet first fell in love with the nation of Vietnam while studying abroad there in the fall of 2010. Inspired by his cousin, Dale Watkins '09 who traveled to Vietnam while a student at the Colleges, Gionet felt the pull of Vietnam - its people and its unique culture. "I needed to see what made my cousin fall in love with this country," says Gionet. "I needed to experience that."
Despite his lifelong interest in Eastern culture and tradition, Gionet was surprised by how truly at home he felt thousands of miles from the U.S. Soon after beginning his term abroad, Gionet found himself with a part-time job, working to harvest rice on a farm.
"Three days a week I took an hour long bus ride, then got off and walked half an hour to a family farm," explains Gionet. "I formed a lasting relationship with the family who owned the farm - they became my Vietnamese family. They showed me a deep, human connection, stripped of language, appearances and culture."
The experience was a formative one - showing him the true hospitality of the Vietnamese people - the compassion that inspired him to apply for the Fulbright grant, giving him the opportunity to return to Vietnam and return the same kindness that was bestowed upon him.
"I didn't feel like I was done in Vietnam," says Gionet. "I want to be able to help, to give back and to show them the compassion that they showed me - the hospitality and kindness that they share with everyone."
Following his return to the country after the Fulbright Teaching Assistant program, Gionet hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in math with the specific intention of teaching bilingual mathematics to Vietnamese students.