When I look back to the time of precisely three years ago, I can see a slightly anxious young Czech woman arriving at the Houston airport thinking of her future responsibilities, which at that time seemed simultaneously vague and enormous. She had just been nominated the first recipient of the CEFT (Czech Educational Foundation of Texas) Fellowship for the academic year of 1999/2000 and had been accepted in a graduate program at the Department of English, Texas A&M, College Station. Unbelievably, that woman was myself, although I still find it hard to believe that my dream to study abroad had come true.
My responsibilities were soon to be more clearly defined by Professor Clint Machann, the chair of the CEFT and a member of the faculty in the Department of English, who is one of the initiators of the CEFT Fellowship and who has promoted this cultural exchange of Czech graduate students at Texas A&M University. Principally, my duties comprised of teaching the Czech language to people from the Czech community in Texas, and studying and working hard as a graduate student in the Department of English. They also included interaction with the Czech community on different levels, e.g., giving short lectures on Czech history or translating documents of Czech immigration to Texas in the late 19th century.
Although, or because, I continuously worked, without a single moment of respite during my first year of stay in College Station, both studying and teaching proved to be very rewarding for me. Teaching Czech has been an absolutely wonderful experience. I admired my students for their patience with hard Czech grammar and I was grateful for their friendliness towards me. I am thankful and proud that I was offered this opportunity by CEFT, and I must say that interaction with the Czech community, giving short lectures and talks and teaching my native tongue have provided me with much better and broader views than if I was only to study English and American literature as a regular graduate student in the Department of English. This way I was also learning to put things in a broader historical, political and cultural perspective. I have met many wonderful, friendly and helpful people through my interaction with the Czech community of Texas and I hope that I have been giving something in return, too.
It seems as if an enormous amount of time has passed since that moment of my inner questioning and apprehensiveness at the Houston airport and the present. It seems to me that that young woman, whom I almost do not recognize today, has grown up into a more confident and more independent person since August 1999. In the present, I am working towards my Ph.D. in the English Department at Brandeis University. My plans for the future are to return to my country, teach at a University there and thus make a good use of my experience and knowledge I acquired abroad.