UI student awarded Fulbright to teach English in Russia

Quinn Hejlik has been awarded a 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Student Grant to Russia to work as an English Teaching Assistant where he hopes to develop a deeper understanding of Russian culture and language, and to extend the same understanding of English language and American culture to his Russian students.

Quinn Hejlik

Quinn Hejlik will serve as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Russia for 2015-16 on a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant

Quinn, a University of Iowa Presidential Scholar, will graduate from the UI this spring with a B.A. in history and international studies.

A native of Omaha, NE, Quinn says his first exposure to the international community came when he was just nine years old.

“My family hosted a Slovak exchange student named Roman for one year, and through him we also met Polish, Serbian and Ukrainian students in the same program,” Hejlik said.

“Their stories and experiences were so different from everything I had seen in my short life, yet I felt like I could identify with and understand them.”

As he grew older, Quinn reflected back on their international outlook and the political and historical contexts of their lives.

“All of them had lived through revolutions and the transition to capitalism in the late 1980s, and the Serbian student told stories of hiding under his kitchen table during NATO bombing raids. Learning about their diverse experiences inspired me to pursue Central and Eastern European history and society,” Hejlik said.

These early experiences inspired him to explore these cultures firsthand in college through a study abroad experience in Prague during the spring of 2013. Quinn says his study of Russian, Czech, and Spanish throughout his high school and college years helped him grasp a better understanding of English and how to explain it to others- a skill he hopes will serve him well as an ETA.

“By studying a closely related language to Russian, (Czech), and a more distantly related one like Spanish, I will be able to teach Russian students English using a wide variety of concepts and examples,” Hejlik said.

“I will be able to more effectively identify my students’ strengths and difficulties, and adapt my teaching style accordingly.”

Quinn has always been very involved with international activities and discussions while a student at the UI. In addition to serving as the Honors Liaison to the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council through the UI Honors Program, Quinn was also selected as a peer mentor and teaching assistant for the Global@Iowa course, a class that focuses on bridging cultural gaps between domestic and international students at the UI.

In learning how to effectively engage foreign students, account for biases and explain American practices, Quinn hopes to establish his own club at his new Russian school called, “America by Americans.” The club will examine how American perceive American history, and why, while comparing this to Russian ideas of Russian history.

“Like the people of any country, Americans view themselves and their history in particular, sometimes competing ways,” Hejlik said.

He and his students will examine American movies, music and news to demonstrate popular American views of history, such as those seen in Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, and in American patriotic songs. They will then look to alternative interpretations, such as those seen in Dances With Wolves and punk rock music. Additionally, Quinn will encourage his students to discuss Russia’s mythos and how it compares to the United States.

After he returns to the U.S., Quinn plans to enroll in graduate school to obtain a PhD in modern Russian history, specifically relating to the Soviet Union’s relations with Central/Eastern European countries on the issue of national identity. 

Quinn is one of 13 Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant winners from the University of Iowa for 2015-16. See the full list of winners. 
The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. For more information on applying for a Fulbright through the University of Iowa, visit our Fulbright page.

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