VCU alum is enjoying his time in Argentina, helping teach English – VCU News

Leslie Bolda spends her days in Argentina as an English language assistant. In her spare time, she soaks up the local culture.

The Virginia Commonwealth University alum wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country when she applied for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program during her final year at VCU in 2019.

“I narrowed down my options based on which countries interested me the most. I think Argentina interested me the most because of a Spanish teacher I had in high school who told us which point she had loved her experience on a trip to Argentina,” said Bolda, who graduated from the College of Humanities in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and Spanish and is now a Ph.D. student at the University of ‘Iowa studying chemistry education.

She applied for the Fulbright scholarship through the VCU national scholarship office.

“I thought it would give me an incredible opportunity to continue improving my Spanish and allow me to explore a new culture and a new country,” she said. “I liked my [previous travel] experience in Spain, therefore, although it did not seem entirely logical as a future doctorate in chemistry. student, I wanted to try my luck and apply.

She was supposed to go to Argentina in 2021, but because of the pandemic, her scholarship was pushed back to 2022.

Bolda arrived in Puerto Madryn in Argentina’s southern Chubut province in mid-March and will stay there until November.

“I go to classes 12 to 14 hours a week. Some days I attend class as if I were a student. Other days, I may give a presentation on some aspect of the United States that I think may be informative, or I may lead conversation/discussion activities. »

Become your own lawyer

One of his biggest challenges is defending himself.

“It’s something I’ve been working on since I’ve been here. I’m my biggest supporter here, so it’s extremely important that I work to express myself when I want to do something, when I need help, and/or when I feel uncomfortable in a certain way. situation,” she said.

Bolda, who grew up in Richmond, became interested in chemistry in high school because of her teacher.

“She was just out of college and she was different from what I perceived as a scientist, which I think inspired me and pushed me to realize that I could be a scientist,” said said Bolda.

The love of Spanish began in middle school and continued through Bolda’s Spanish immersion program in high school and beyond.

“My intrigue for the subject continued to grow as I learned the more complex grammatical rules and explored the literature of Spanish-speaking countries. I went to high school to study in Spain for three weeks in Salamanca. In college, I studied abroad for a semester in Granada, Spain,” she said.

The move to VCU

Bolda transferred to VCU after a year at American University.

“I decided to go to VCU to become a high school chemistry teacher. So many teachers have inspired me over the years, that it felt right for me to choose to be a teacher myself. I chose VCU because of its location in Richmond as well as its school of education,” she said.

Suzanne Ruder, Ph.D., professor of organic chemistry at VCU, was the first to introduce Bolda to research in chemistry education.

“It largely focuses on how students learn chemistry and how teaching can be modified to improve their learning,” Bolda said, adding that after a conversation with a teaching assistant, she realized that the research on chemistry education was a good choice. “It was the perfect outlet for my two interests – chemistry and languages ​​– because it’s a crossroads between chemistry and the social sciences. This job has opened up a whole new world for me and my future. Through the mentorship of Dr. Ruder, I decided to pursue graduate school in chemistry to study chemistry education.

Meredith Sisson, Ph.D., Deputy Director of VCU’s National Scholarship Office, also played a key role as a mentor for Bolda.

“She helped me every step of the way when I applied for the Fulbright. I truly believe I wouldn’t be in Argentina right now if I hadn’t had her guidance and support,” Bolda said. “She went above and beyond in helping me, and I’m incredibly grateful to her for that.”

Bolda’s experience in Argentina teaches her a lot, she says.

“Living and traveling abroad gives you a sense of compassion, empathy and empowerment that I don’t think you would otherwise get. It forces you to become more confident and willing to step out of your comfort zone for yourself. ensuring that your needs and, at times, your wants are met,” she said. “It will help me tremendously in my future, both personally and professionally. Also, I hope to take home the kindness and generosity I have received here from the people I have met.”

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