This fall, Hannah Combe ’13 will move directly across the Black Sea from Georgia, where she has been serving in the Peace Corps for two years, to Bulgaria, as a recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.
Combe teaches English to grades 1-12 in the central region of Georgia, Shida Kartli. She says one of the most important things she has learned is the value of bringing excitement, humor, and physical activity into a classroom.
“I hope to bring this lesson to bear while teaching in Bulgaria,” she says. “There have been many challenges in my service, both personal and professional, but I think the most difficult challenge is students who lack motivation to learn English and are yet required to be in the classroom. Working with these students, trying to manage their behavior, include them, and perhaps coax out some interest, is perhaps the most existentially exhausting thing I've ever done.”
Combe, an English major and varsity soccer player at Oberlin, says she chose Bulgaria out of deep personal curiosity for Balkan culture. During her time in Georgia, she has become more interested in post-Soviet Eastern Europe. “Both countries have rich folk cultures and traditions, and long histories of invasion. I want to learn as much as possible about Bulgaria.”
In addition to teaching in her village, Kvishkheti, Combe has been involved with several life skills camps and a creative writing competition. “During my service, I have most enjoyed the relationships I've formed with my host family, my teaching counterparts, my Georgian tutor, and my students. I love being in my village, and it is my times with these people that I will miss the most when I leave. I have also adored learning and speaking Georgian.”
A native of Granville, Ohio, she credits the Peace Corps for providing excellent language training, as she’s been taking weekly lessons with a tutor throughout her two years. “I enjoy speaking, studying, and reading Georgian, and I have a wide variety of kinds of conversations. I especially love playing soccer with my fifth- and sixth-graders and being able to fully communicate in a game that is totally built on communication. I speak Georgian very well, and it is somewhat bittersweet to be leaving at the peak of my Georgian skills.”
In Bulgaria, Combe looks forward to studying the language, getting to know her students and helping them increase their English speaking skills, working with teachers, and exploring the country and culture. Her Fulbright year begins in September and ends in June 2017.
She has already been accepted to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California. In fall 2017, she will begin a two-year master’s program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. “Georgia to Bulgaria to California—a natural progression!”