American K-12 Classrooms “Reach the World” with Guest Fulbrighters

The Fulbright Program teams up with Reach the World, a U.S. non-profit, to use the power of virtual exchange and in-person visits to inspire the next generation of curious, confident, and compassionate global citizens.

The Reach the World Program pairs K-12 classroom teachers and their students in the U.S. for virtual exchanges with Americans while they are studying, teaching, or conducting research abroad. In 2023-2023, Reach the World selected a distinguished group of participants that included 37 Fulbright U.S. Student Program participants. These Fulbrighters connected with classrooms throughout the United States for ongoing Traveler Program virtual exchanges.

These Fulbrighters bring the classroom students along on a journey of virtual collaboration and global engagement. They share their adventures with the younger students through video chats and journals, showing photos and telling personal stories about their host countries, and creating interactive online activities. Students get close-up interviews with Fulbrighters about the culture, geography, history and daily life abroad.

Travelers connect with individual teachers and their classrooms

Two students and Fulbrighter standing in front of whiteboard

Morgan Thomas, a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Tamale, Ghana, received the Reach the World Traveler Spring 2023 Best Storyteller Award for her virtual exchange with third-grade students in Brooklyn, New York. Thomas, a University of Houston graduate, helped her students experienced new people, cuisines, and aspects of Ghanaian culture through her journals and video chats. At the conclusion of her adventure, Morgan shared heartfelt letters from her Ghanaian literacy club members with the U.S. third-graders, bridging the ocean between these new friends.

Fulbrighter in greenhouse trimming plant with scissors

Fulbright U.S. Student Camille Sicangco shared her research as a plant ecologist, and her travels in Australia, with fourth-grade students in Minnesota through her outstanding photos, which won her the Reach the World Traveler Fall 2022 Best Media award. Sicangco, who graduated from University of Florida with a double major in math and botany, studied drought and fire resistance in Eucalyptus plants on her Fulbright. She taught the fourth graders about environmental challenges, plant resilience, and conservation of the Australian ecosystem.

Reach the World “explorers” invite multiple schools to join their expeditions

An additional four Fulbright U.S. Student Program researchers took part in the Explorer Program virtual exchanges. The explorer program is specific to STEM-related fieldwork, with one explorer reaching multiple classrooms over six to twelve weeks. Teachers connect their classes with explorers via scheduled interactive presentations, and each volunteer explorer has their own journey homepage featuring their written articles and livestream recordings “from the field.”

Students in multiple classrooms around the United States followed along with underwater photographer and Fulbrighter Kelly King in Tofo Beach, Mozambique as a Reach the World Explorer. Kelly, a recent graduate of James Madison University in environmental science, dove off research vessels to take photos of whale sharks to identify and track these amazing animals. Students were able to ask King live questions from Mozambique as she shared stories and photos from her most recent dives. They also followed her on her Reach the World Explorer page.

Meet the World brings Foreign Fulbrighters to schools for in-person visits

Elementary and secondary school teachers who partner with Reach the World also have a special opportunity to invite Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs) to come to their schools for a Meet the World classroom visit. These Fulbrighters give lively presentations about their home countries and cultures and share personal insights on what it is like for them to live and teach in the United States. Adding memorable, in-person  visits to the already impactful ongoing Reach the World virtual exchanges increases the students’ global competency and interest in other cultures.   

Reach the World selects schools where they can help close gaps in access to study abroad participation, allowing younger American students to gain firsthand international perspectives and see themselves as international students and researchers.

During the 2022-23 academic year, Fulbright FLTAs representing 12 countries participated in Meet the World visits at K-12 schools in seven U.S. states, bringing positive and personal global experiences to more than 550 students and meeting Fulbright’s goals of increasing mutual understanding.

Visits took place to elementary schools in Alabama and Connecticut; middle schools in New Jersey and North Carolina; and high schools in Iowa, New York, and Virginia. In celebration of International Education Week, additional Fulbright FLTAs visits are taking place during November 2023, in Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Virginia.

Emily Litman, a middle school teacher in Jersey City, New Jersey, is a long-time Reach the World partner educator and a former Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms participant. She is dedicated to making global education accessible to all her students.Litman said that her own exchange experience helps her to connect her students to the world, and “talk about all the ways we are similar and all the ways we are different," which she continues to do through Meet the World visits.  Sharing these experiences “helps students see that it's important to learn about how other people live and learn around the world.”

Litman hosted Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants Svenja Fricke (from Germany, teaching German at Bard College), Ailin Zanatta (from Argentina, teaching Spanish at Bard College), Jihan Assaf (from Lebanon, teaching Arabic at Bard College), and Rawad Geha (from Lebanon, teaching Arabic at Mercy University), who shared aspects of their home countries and cultures with Litman’s middle school students. The students, whose families also have roots in many different countries, shared their own global backgrounds with their Meet the World visitors.

In Falls Church, Virginia, Fulbright FLTA Eman Alalawi, from Jordan, teaching Arabic at George Mason University, met with Christina McLain's 10th-grade students. Alalawi shared aspects of Jordanian culture through dancing, the tasting of ma'amoul cookies, and henna designs.

McLain's students were already interested in Jordan thanks to their recently completed virtual exchange journey with Fulbright U.S. Student Gabriel Davis, who had been researching the relationships between Syrian refugees and nonprofits in Amman, Jordan.

In the last journal entry that he shared with the class, Davis told the students, “Travel takes a lot of patience and leadership, but it also helps build those things along the way. The amazing places you can go when you set your mind to it have surprised me all the time. I hope that my experience in Jordan motivates you to think about the different experiences you can have!”

In Des Moines, Iowa, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Zaira Doñoro Gallardo, from Spain, visited two of Shawn Voshell’s 9th-grade classes to share aspects of Spanish culture and her Fulbright experience teaching Spanish at Iowa’s Central College.

This Meet the World visit was an in-person capstone experience following the students' Reach the World virtual exchange journey with Iowa native Christy Sommers, who spent her year as a Fulbright U.S. Student in Catania, on the island of Sicily in southern Italy, undertaking research on migration in Italy.

Sommers told the students that she chose this place because Sicily has been “a point of passage for people traveling in the Mediterranean for hundreds, or even thousands, of years,” and serves as a landing place for many migrants coming into Europe from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. She explained that she was curious to understand “how migrants cultivate community, safety, and well-being in a new place,” and told them she hopes to contribute to public policies that facilitate “smoother and kinder transitions for people on the move.”

In Brooklyn, New York, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Ahmet Öztel, from Turkey, teaching Turkish at New York University, visited Christina Mesk's 5th-grade students in Brooklyn. Öztel shared aspects of Turkish culture and language while forging a meaningful friendship with the students.

Mesk is a recent Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms participant, and a passionate advocate for the power of global education within her learning community. Her Fulbright project compared how the United States and Colombia ensure equity and access in educational settings so that all students develop agency and independence. She shared her travels through a blog, Global Kids Can, and produced a digital Global Education Guide to provide resources and lesson plans for teachers.

Through her Fulbright, Mesk “learned that global citizens are flexible problem solvers who don’t see obstacles as a reason to quit. Global citizens see these obstacles as reasons to grow—to ask questions and keep conversations going.” She said, “Those are the students I’m molding in my classroom.”

Fulbrighter posing together in front of projector screen

In Naugatuck, Connecticut, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants Trang Pham (from Vietnam, teaching Vietnamese at Yale University), Kritika Dhyani (from India, teaching Hindi at Yale University), Amira Ounis (from Algeria, teaching Arabic at Wesleyan University), and Thais Vianna (from Brazil, teaching Portuguese at Yale University), visited Kris DiMaio’s second-grade classes for an afternoon of cross-cultural learning.

Prior to welcoming Amira, Trang, Thais, and Kritika, Mrs. DiMaio's students completed a virtual exchange journey with Reach the World volunteer traveler Alastornia "Toni" Swift, who shared her experiences studying abroad in Mannheim, Germany with the help of a Gilman Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.

In Homewood, Alabama, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Le-mei Chi (from Taiwan, teaching Mandarin at Emory University) visited Rebecca Smith's 4th-grade students (left photo). In Charlotte, North Carolina, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants Mariel Ramirez Gonzalez (from Argentina, teaching Spanish at Gardner-Webb University) and Frances Bargas (from Uruguay, teaching Spanish at Gardner-Webb University) visited Kate Hughey's 6th-grade classrooms.

How to take part in a Reach the World Exchange

If you are a K-12 educator in the United States who would like to welcome a Meet the World visitor into your classroom, please email [email protected] or register your classroom online.  Teachers can also learn about Reach the World Explorers and sign up to follow their expeditions on the Virtual Exchange Expeditions Page. If you are or will be a Fulbright U.S. Student during the current academic year, and would like to connect with a U.S. classroom while you are abroad, apply to be a Reach the World volunteer educational traveler.

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