Note: The Spring 2020 semester was interrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Participants returned home in the middle of the semester and continued their studies remotely. Jacob Jones discusses the adjustment to remote learning while on the Eurasian Regional Language Program as a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad scholarship recipient.
After a much-needed break back in the States, I returned to Dushanbe excited to learn. Eager and willing, I dove headfirst in all things Tajik, anxious and excited for all the new opportunities that awaited me. For instance, we had our much-anticipated trip to the Pamirs, where I would finally get to see the mysterious Marco Polo goat. Trust me—the goat is cooler than it sounds. I was also excited for the second semester because I was to stay with a new family in Dushanbe. With this family, I got to experience Tajik culture, such as cooking bread, making Osh, watching my host brother’s roughhouse, and sip chai with my host mother on chilly winter evenings. By the end of the first month, I finally started to feel fully acclimated to my life in Dushanbe— at least spiritually and gastrointestinally speaking. Then, unfortunately, COVID-19 became the world’s reality. Accepting the situation for what it was, we evacuated back to the United States.
Now, like everyone else in the continental 48, I am quarantined. As other students of language I am sure can attest to, I began worrying about my language acquisition path. With being unable to communicate with other Persian speakers regularly, while also not being fully inundated with Persian news and information, I began to worry that my American Councils learning experience was over. However, much to my amazement, American Councils were quick to set up online classes. Now, although living in quarantine has its own drawbacks, I am back on track.
For instance, I have classes every weekday for at least two hours, followed by a pretty stringent and self-imposed study session. Albeit this set up does not compare the intensity of studying in Dushanbe, I still feel as though I’m learning at a decent rate.
However, there have been some upshots of returning home early—something about desperation breeding innovation? For instance, by not having a constant stream of Farsi thrown at you every second, of every hour, of every day, one needs to find alternative sources to fill the gap. The answer: Instagram. So, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve slowly been following more and more Persian Instagram accounts, with the golden rule that the more the asinine, the better. It’s like watching a train wreck—but in another language. But in all seriousness, I find it helpful to use alternative sources since people often speak more colloquially while using such social media. Thus, if someone finds themselves able to understand the news, but not capable of comprehending simple conversations, it would behoove them to buttress their more conventional learning modalities, such as books and the press, with modes such as Instagram accounts.
About Fulbright-Hays Scholarships from American Councils
American Councils for International Education has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad, to provide scholarships for advanced overseas Russian and Persian language study. Learn more about the eligibility requirements here.
About Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad
The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, commonly referred to as the Fulbright-Hays Act, was made law by the 87th U.S. Congress under President John F. Kennedy on September 21, 1961. Senator J. William Fulbright and Representative Wayne Hays introduced the legislation, which represents the basic charter for U.S. government-sponsored educational and cultural exchange. 2016 marks the 55th anniversary of this landmark legislation. More information about Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad can be found here.