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Pajor '17 selected for Fulbright teaching program in Brazil

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – A recent Monmouth College graduate will spend most of 2018 in Brazil as part of a Fulbright program.

Through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Barbara Pajor ’17 was selected to participate in the highly competitive English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program in Brazil. The program places Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers. ETAs help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States.

Pajor is no stranger to being abroad, or to teaching English as a second language (ESL). She experienced both during her time as a student at Monmouth.

“I heard about the Fulbright program while studying abroad in Tarragona, Spain,” said Pajor, who majored in international business and Spanish at Monmouth and also spent a semester in Chicago through an Associated Colleges of the Midwest program.

“Something that I’ve really appreciated is that Monmouth is really pushing people to study off campus and study abroad, and that’s something that I’ve really tried to help foster in other students,” she said. “There are so many opportunities for people to learn outside of the classroom and really have an experiential learning experience instead of just trying to read something out of a textbook. … You learn parts of the culture, such as the history and food, that you really don’t understand until you actually experience them.”

That said, Pajor didn’t have to leave Monmouth to become an experienced teacher in English as a second language. She worked in the local community, helping immigrants from countries such as Myanmar and Mexico become more familiar with English.

“I taught people from all over the world when I was at Monmouth, and also helped them apply for driver’s licenses,” she said. “I learned there is so much to learn from these individuals. People need to get off campus and learn about other cultures. (They can do that) just by being able to volunteer, for example.”

Recently, Argentinian teacher Maria Victoria Martin spent an academic year at Monmouth College through a Fulbright program ; Pajor’s experience will be similar in Brazil. Starting in February, she’ll spend nine months in a university setting and while there will have a chance to participate in an additional project outside the classroom. It’s possible she could extend her stay by becoming a mentor.

Already fluent in Spanish and proficient in French, Pajor is excited to add another language to her repertoire.

“I learned how much learning a language really benefits my ESL students, and now I have the opportunity to learn Portuguese,” she said.

Pajor encourages other Monmouth students – and even alumni – to look into the Fulbright program, and she said Monmouth faculty and staff are willing and able to assist them.

“This is such a great opportunity for Monmouth College students,” she said. “It’s important to make connections on campus with professors. I would not have been able to go through this process without my advisers, and also without (Wackerle Career and Leadership Center Director) Marnie Dugan, who was very supportive. As a recent grad, that’s when they were helping me.”

After her Fulbright experience, Pajor said “the dream” is to to attend either graduate school or law school, with the goal of working in immigration law.

“I would really like to find another avenue to help immigrant communities, not necessarily directly teaching,” she said.