I am extremely grateful to Wells Fargo, Carolinas Health Care system, Bank of America and UNC Charlotte for funding the World Affairs Council Scholar Award Program which has afforded me the opportunity to attend one of the four residential requirements for the PhD in Applied Linguistics Program I am part of at Lancaster University in England.

Without the financial burden, I was able to focus my time and energy entirely in the program and make the best out of my stay abroad. The residential was filled with experiences that foster growth at so many levels, intellectually and socially. As a result of participating in these diverse interactions, I am able to bring latest trends in the language teaching field to share with educators at Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Furthermore, and probably most importantly, I was able to be part of a multicultural and successful learning community which has enhanced my perception of the world.

I participated in conferences, talks and classes which gave me access to knew knowledge and shared experiences. Through such interactions, I was able to identify similarities between school systems in the US and abroad. Interestingly, many of the issues faced abroad are also challenges in the US schools. For example, the world refugee situation as well as globalized economies have forced schools to look at new ways of teaching, one that takes into account the diversity in culture and language and focuses on successful communication and integration. It was valuable to hear that “translanguaging” the dynamic use of two or more languages in the classroom is a spreading practice in Europe and an expanding area of interest for linguists around the world. I found this information significant and worth of further research since a practice such as translanguaging can have a positive impact in the education of CMS students and in the community.

Besides learning about new trends in education and especially in language teaching, I have gained tremendous inspiration from my classmates. I particularly enjoyed getting together not only for the benefit of the intellectual exchanges but also to cheer each other up when the gray and rainy UK weather lowered our spirits. The social aspect of the residential will also translate into my work in the school. Interacting with diverse populations promotes respect for each other’s cultures and awareness of our personal assumptions that unintentionally may affect communication. Effective cross-cultural communication is essential to build a dynamic and innovative community of educators, especially in bilingual settings. Exposure to diversity has enhanced my appreciation for cultural differences and at the same time has showed me how to tap into each other’s strengths to increase our repertoire of useful resources. Engaging with so many people from around the world was an extraordinary enriching experience which has impacted my personal and professional life and that now I am able to share with other educators in my school.

The award was definitely worthwhile. It provided an experience that cannot be replicated and which will leave an impact beyond myself reaching those I interact with at the workplace and in the community.

Mariana De Luca was one of the recipients of our 2015-2016 Council Scholar grants