Rachel O’Hanlon has long been able to forge connections through agriculture. From helping her parents in the garden at a young age to helping local farmers with the harvest in Amakusa, Japan, O’Hanlon knows that a lot can be shared through farming practices.
In 2017, she plans to learn a new community’s agricultural practices through a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Bulgaria.
O’Hanlon, of Lincoln, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who studied psychology, Japanese and sociology, has been teaching English in the agriculturally-based town of Amakusa since her graduation in 2014. In her classes, where students range in age from kindergarten to middle school, she emphasizes the benefits and importance of diversity and global awareness.
“With an emphasis on diversity, I focus on a student’s unique interests and learning style to effectively encourage growth,” she said.
O’Hanlon said she chose Bulgaria because of the diverse cultures represented in its population and the nation’s status as a leader in education with a global outlook. She was also drawn to Bulgaria because of her interest in the Slow Food movement, which promotes agricultural education in schools through the creation of community gardens. O’Hanlon sees potential in this project to be a means of celebrating diversity and encouraging community. She is collaborating with Slow Food blogger Casey Angelova on a community garden project that she will implement during her time as a teaching assistant in Bulgaria.
“Gardening is a practice that transcends language and simplifies life,” she said. “I hope to foster positive growth within my community in Bulgaria, and I hope to have grown in my understanding of Bulgaria’s citizens as much as I have grown in my knowledge of their local food, culture and the community.” She plans to use her knowledge of a new country to pursue her goal of a lifelong career in international education.
The Fulbright Program, established in 1946 and funded by the U.S. Department of State, is designed to foster understanding between the United States and other countries. The U.S. Student Fulbright program gives recent graduates, graduate students and young professionals the opportunity to conduct research, study or teach in one of 160 designated countries. Students such as O’Hanlon are awarded the Fulbright on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.