The Journey Is the Destination by Alec Travers

Last week was full of sudden decisions and twists in the lives of our grantees. Many of them had to pack up at short notice to go back home according to the changing announcements. One of them was our ETA, Alec. Read his moving farewell.

text by Alec Travers (Fulbright English Teaching Assistant)

As previously mentioned, due to worldly circumstances (see: Pandemic), I’m writing this farewell letter earlier than I was expecting to. My originally planed 10 months in the Czech Republic were cut short a few months, however, I would not like to further dwell on that missing time, but rather share appreciation and gratitude for the incredible 7 months I was so fortunate to have. It’s now been a week since my arrival back home to Roanoke, VA and in that time I have been trying to formulate the best farewells I could extend, to try and encapsulate my thanks to so many people and things that shaped my Fulbright experience.

To Tabor: Tabor, you are a beautiful city. Your cobblestone streets, pastel buildings, and beautiful geographic setting help tell the story of the 600 years of history you are celebrating this spring. When I first came to look at the town for a day in April last year, I didn’t yet see your charm. But after moving there in August, you quickly grew on me and became a home I was proud of and thankful to call my own. Your walkability, safety, and mystique will be something I hope to find in any other place that I live, and something I will always remember you for. I’m grateful to you for challenging me in ways that required me to grow as an individual and as an adult in times of uncertainty and adversity. I always enjoyed the opportunity of getting to show you off to people visiting me, and I will miss walking your streets as a resident.

To My Mentor, Jitka: From the first time I met you, I had a great feeling about you. Your poise and confidence were reassuring. As we exchanged emails during the summer months, our communication and your helpful suggestions made my departure from the US much less daunting. During the course of this year, you have been nothing short of a pleasure to work with and be around, as not only my mentor, but as my most trusted friend. You were a perfect mentor for me to be matched with, as you allowed me an abundance of autonomy and your trust from the beginning, which allowed me to thrive and grow. You constantly went out of your way to make sure I was included, comfortable, and felt at home in Tabor and as a faculty member at the school. You took on the role of my mentor voluntarily, without any type of incentive from the school or Fulbright program to compensate you for your efforts and time. I can’t thank you enough for your generosity.

To my school colleagues: Thank you for allowing me into your classrooms and your lives as an outsider, unfamiliar with Czech customs and lacking a formal educational background. From the time I was introduced to each of you face to face, your smiles and welcoming disposition made me feel comfortable and wanted. As teachers, you provided me with examples of how I could grow in my teaching abilities and competencies. Whether it be bringing me food you had prepared, working on special projects together, or as a team to defeat the students in the Christmas School Volleyball Tournament, I would not have had this great an experience without you. Everyone at school was such a pleasure to work with and your patience with me was not overlooked.

To my students: Our time together was cut short. However, that only increases how proud I am to have been your teacher during these past 7 months, and for all of the growth you made during our time together. I acknowledged from the beginning that English is a difficult language to learn, but I pushed you to push on, and I congratulate you for not giving up. Your curiosity in the United States and about my life brought us the opportunity to have fun lessons, covering a wide range of topics. I thank you all for your kindness, respect, and for making me feel at home and welcomed during my time in Tábor. Your participation during our time together and your hard work made me want to work hard for you. I also treasured the opportunity to learn from you. The Fulbright program is not one-sided; it is a mutual exchange of culture and I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to learn from you about your county’s incredible history and culture. Thank you for teaching me. I encourage each of you to not be afraid to make mistakes, and to truly believe that you have the power and the ability to achieve anything you set your mind to. Thank you for giving me pride in my work. I will greatly miss your smiles and hellos walking through the hallways.

To all my Tabor friends: You all are very different; in age, personality, race/gender, and yet, all of you impacted my experience in your own way. They say Czech people can be cold and uninterested in outsiders; I did not find that to be true. Sometimes it was an uplifting handshake in the gym, welcoming me into your home to join your family for a meal, laughs over pivo in the pub, bicycle rides around the Jordan, horseback rides through the forest, hockey games, taking me to get a haircut, explaining to me how things worked, and countless other memories we shared together. Thank you for gifting me with friendship and including me in a world I would have otherwise been isolated and alone in. I look forward to sharing more of these experiences with you at some point in the future.

To my loved ones and friends who came to visit: Moving somewhere by yourself, where you don’t know anyone, in an unfamiliar environment, with a language you don’t speak, is a difficult thing to do. There were times I was lonely and craved the interaction with other English speakers that I already had deep relationships with. Each of your visits brought me happiness, and something to look forward to. I learned you really can’t put a price on the feeling of being loved, whether by family or friends. It was fun for me to get to show you my city, my school, and my Czech life.

To the Czech Fulbright Commission: Thank you for all of your hard work. From the communication pre-arrival, to our first time all meeting, throughout the entirely of the program, I was blown away by your professionalism and management competencies. I have never worked in an environment that was this well run. I completely agree with the Embassy officials that on numerous occasions referred to the Czech Fulbright Commission as running the “gold standard” of Fulbright programs in the world. Specifically to my program officer, Kristyna, you were such an incredible resource to have and so great at your job. You are the type of colleague I would want on my team every time.

To my fellow Fulbright grantees: I was honored to be a part of such a prestigious group of people. Your intellect, experiences, and diversified backgrounds made you such interesting people to work alongside. I’m so thankful for the Fulbright program for giving 31 strangers the chance to come together to not only become friends, but work as a team to impact the world. I hope each of you will remember the power of positivity in your lives to come. Mark my words, this group will be full of exceptionally successful individuals. I look forward to the next chess game.

To my family and friends back home: Thank you for joining along with me during this journey. I am so grateful for your thoughts and prayers along the way; I needed each of them. It’s been a joy for me to get to share my stories, thoughts, and pictures with you for the last 2 years. Your feedback has made me consider continuing the blog in some capacity in the time to come. You forced me to remember that my experiences are not just solely mine, but that they can be shared and felt by others, no matter where they may be around the globe.

These 7 months have truly been an example of “the journey is the destination.” When I entered the program, I anticipated that I would feel a sense of growth and difference in my life by the scheduled conclusion date in June. However, I failed to realize that during each month, each week, and even each day, I was being subtly changed and impacted by each experience and the involvement of all of the countless people addressed above. My Fulbright experience was full of highs and lows, but I am so grateful for all of it. With mutual funding and support from the United States government and partnering countries all around the world, individuals like me have the opportunity to exchange culture, ideas, and learn how to work as a worldly team together to address our future. That teamwork is something we need now more than ever.


Alec Travers

1 komentář:

  1. Our English lesson with you were great and I will miss them.


    Fanda Langműller