Student selected for Global Leader Fellowship

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
David Gonzalez

GVL/Kevin Sielaff David Gonzalez

Maddie Forshee

Many students dream of traveling after graduation or pursuing their field of study in another country, but many are unable to do so. Grand Valley State University student David Gonzalez is luckier than most students in that he has the opportunity to do what he loves while being able to travel, too.

Gonzalez, a junior Spanish major, was recently granted a Global Leader Fellowship by the U.S.-Brazil Connect Program for the second time.

The fellowship is an 18-week English-language coaching program that takes college students from the United States and teams them with high school students in Brazil for an online and in-person hybrid language learning course. The program, which runs March through September, includes eight weeks of pre-departure work conducted online through Google hangouts or FaceTime, four weeks of in-person interaction when the fellow visits Brazil and six weeks of post-visit teaching and wrap-up.

The U.S.-Brazil Connect Program is a nonprofit that facilitates collaborative education programs between the United States and Brazil through different fellowships and volunteer opportunities.

Gonzalez, a native of Jackson, Michigan, first participated in the program in 2012 after hearing about it from a previous professor at Jackson College. He had to learn Portuguese before beginning the program, but he said it wasn’t impossible since he’s proficient in Spanish.

Gonzalez taught in Salvador, Brazil and plans on returning there to teach this summer. He said the decision to do it a second time was an easy one.

“You build a type of connection when you’re teaching someone to speak your language,” he said. “I feel like you can’t have that any other way. I’ve grown; I feel like I’ll be a better teacher and be able to do a better job.”

The Global Leader Fellows teach high school seniors who have had experience learning English before, therefore the course is not for beginners. Students must take an exam before entering the course.

Every fellow is given a curriculum, but it is used as a guide rather than a set lesson plan. Gonzalez was inspired by a class he is currently taking and plans on incorporating more creativity, games and creative writing into his teaching.

Gonzalez plans on living in Brazil for nearly three months, in addition to the four weeks required to be there for the program. He said he wants to continue teaching English outside of the program while he’s in Salvador to kids who may not have had the resources to take the entrance exam for the program.

In the future, Gonzalez plans on graduating college and entering the military. During his time in the service, he plans to learn more languages – French and Mandarin – and eventually wants to take the foreign services exam to qualify to become a diplomat. Gonzalez loves to travel and doesn’t want this career to interfere with that, but rather capitalize on it.

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