Kevin Thor, a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and native of Stanton, has earned a grant from the prestigious Fulbright Program to teach English in Vietnam during the 2016-17 academic year.
Thor, a double major in communication studies and management, has an extensive background in teaching. He has served as a teaching assistant for seven university classes dedicated to cultural competency, leadership through global understanding, and interpersonal communication. Thor particularly focuses on intercultural literacy, with an emphasis on values, beliefs, norms and other nonverbal elements of culture. He said he believes that awareness of these issues is critical to becoming an effective teacher in underserved communities.
This is not Thor’s first trip to Vietnam. In summer 2014, he traveled to the capital of Hanoi as part of the nonprofit initiative Volunteer for Development. While there, he taught English to students between the ages of 18 and 38. Out of necessity, Thor took an individualized approach to language teaching.
“I learned to be highly flexible and innovative with my lessons, as the English level of the students varied in each classroom,” Thor said.
The skills he honed on his last trip will come in useful as an English teaching assistant upon his return to Vietnam. Thor’s teaching experience in Vietnman stemmed from his previous participation in UNL’s Semester at Sea program, when he gained intercultural perspectives in 15 countries that included Russia, South Africa and Cuba. His desire for being culturally aware of varied perspectives, and for engaging in cultures as they thrive interdependently, is a valuable part of his upcoming Fulbright ETA.
With a background in leadership training through his role as the national secretary of Future Business Leaders of America, Thor hopes to take what he has learned in that organization to work with Vietnamese community members on their leadership tactics and styles. “I plan to hone in on community development through leadership initiatives,” Thor said. By providing training on presentation and speaking skills, Thor said he hopes to develop deep relationships with the community and his students.
Upon his return to the United States, Thor plans to attend graduate school and pursue studies in international relations and international communication. His interests in intercultural communication and cultural competency make this ETA to Vietnam a perfect next step for him as he prepares for a career in foreign affairs. This Fulbright award will allow him to continue his personal and professional growth abroad as he creates more meaningful relationships between the US and Vietnam.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Recipients such as Thor are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.