U.S. Embassy offers exchanges to English teachers, women in law, business [Archives:2007/1105/Reportage]

November 22 2007

Mohammed Al-Jabri
The U.S. Embassy in Yemen has recently announced the opening of the competition for the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program for the academic year 2008-2009, and the competition for the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Legal and Business Fellowship Program (LBFP) for young Middle Eastern women for 2008. Mohammed Al-Jabri interviews Megan Goodfellow, Cultural Affairs Officer at the American Embassy, regarding the two programs.

“The Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program was started in 1986, but it is still relatively new in Yemen. We haven't sent Yemeni participants to the U.S. on this program yet, but I'm optimistic that this year we will have a number of qualified candidates. We are accepting applications now for this program for academic year 2008-2009.

“The overall goal of the program is to strengthen foreign language instruction in the U.S. and to give qualified teachers an opportunity to improve their English and teaching skills.

Candidates must be English teachers here in Yemen, but while in the U.S., they will be teaching Arabic to the American people. This program is also an important opportunity for Americans to learn about Yemen and its people.

“The Yemeni participants on this program will improve their teaching skills and gain experience and first-hand knowledge of the American people and way of life. When they return to Yemen, they'll be able to incorporate lessons about American culture into their English language teaching strategy.

Criteria for selecting candidates

“Candidates for the FLTA must be between 21 and 29 years old at the time of their application. They must be a Yemeni citizen with a Bachelors degree or equivalent. A Masters degree is preferred but not required. They must be a teacher of English or training to become a teacher of English. Teachers from both public and private schools are welcome to apply. The ideal applicant is mature, independent, flexible, willing to explore a foreign culture, and has a great sense of humor.

“Candidates must be fluent in English, but they do not need a TOEFL score to apply. If they are selected, the U.S. Embassy will pay for them to take the TOEFL exam.

“We will send as many qualified, eligible candidates as we find to the U.S. on this program. We don't have a ceiling on the number of participants we can nominate.

“The Foreign Language Teaching Assistants will strengthen their teaching abilities and will receive training on how to teach a foreign language, and will also learn first-hand about American culture. Culture is such an important part of language instruction. Learning a new language is more than just learning the words, writing, and reading – it's also understanding the people who speak that language.

” FLTA participants will gain that understanding during their time in the U.S. Participants will be able to meet other teachers from around the world. We hope the participants will continue their relationship with the Embassy when they get back. We will keep in contact with them and see how the program has changed their lives in Yemen.

“We have a good relationship with the Ministry of Higher Education and officials there have agreed to help us to promote our cultural exchange programs. We presented the Ministry with information on the programs the U.S. Embassy offers, and they've been very supportive.

Program for women

“The Middle East Partnership Initiative Legal and Business Fellowship Program (LBFP) was established in 2005. The U.S. Embassy will nominate one or two Yemeni women for this program. Applicants must be women currently working in business or law who have a Bachelors degree in business or law or a Bachelors degree in another subject with three years of work experience in business or law. The LBFP will take place in the U.S. from the end of March to the end of August 2008.

“The LBFP is a fellowship, not a training program, so it's important that the candidates have either a degree or experience or both in either law or business.

“The LBFP places women in U.S. companies or law firms for a four-month fellowship program in which they will use their existing knowledge and skills along with the knowledge they'll gain from program's one-month academic component at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

“The LBFP selects women from throughout the Middle East, including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, UAE, West Bank & Gaza, and, of course, Yemen.

“We believe that women who participate in the LBFP will come back to Yemen with the experience, enthusiasm, and confidence to create positive change in their communities and in their professions. The LBFP program also provides a great opportunity for them to network with other young professional young women from the Middle East.

Opportunity for better understanding

“People often have misconceptions of each other based on what they see on television or in the movies. The Yemeni participants in all of the U.S. Embassy's cultural exchange programs are able to describe themselves, their lives, families, their beliefs, and their culture in their own words to the Americans they meet while in the U.S. They're able to be cultural ambassadors for Yemen, demonstrating their proud history and traditions. Likewise, when they come back to Yemen, they can describe America in their own words to their families, friends, and colleagues. It's one thing to hear about another country, but something very different and special when you can experience life in another country yourself and share those experiences with others. Who could do a better job of explaining the U.S. than a Yemeni who's seen and experienced it for him or herself?

The Legal and Business Fellowship Program (LBFP) is funded by the U.S. Department of State's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). It provides young women in business and law an opportunity to practice their skills and gain experience to help them grow as professionals and advocate for an improved investment climate and legal reforms.

The five-month program will take place in the United States from March 30, 2008 to August 28, 2008. Fellows will participate in a one-month academic program at the top-ranked University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School or School of Law in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Each participant will then conduct a four-month fellowship with a large U.S. company or a top-tier law firm in one of the LBFP target cities in the United States.

Participants will first gather in Washington, D.C. for an orientation program. At the conclusion of the fellowships, they will return to Washington for a re-entry workshop that includes discussion of how they can leverage their alumnae status.

The program will consist of a one month US-based academic program followed by a fellowship with a company or law firm. The program will start and end with orientations in Washington, D.C. The academic portion will be at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School which will provide overall management and coordination between the business and law schools.