Greetings from our Fulbright English Teaching Assistant
Atuakkiortoq: Augusta Finzel;
"When I arrived in Greenland in early September, I didn’t know what to expect. It was only in June that I found out that I would be in Nuuk for the school year as a part of the newest extension of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program. Prior to finding that out, I had just returned home after graduating from Lawrence University in Wisconsin to the small rural community of Morris, Minnesota in the United States, where I grew up. Growing up, I was always curious about what lay beyond the endless horizon of the expansive prairie that I was so familiar with. At college, I studied Russian and Biology and became fascinated with ecosystems, climate change, and the way of life in the Arctic.
As my plane was landing in Kangerlussuaq I was quite anxious for what was to come. It was a cold drizzly dreary day in Kangerlussuaq, normally the kind of day I would stay inside and wait for a new day to come. However, as I stared out that tiny plane window, I couldn’t believe how much beauty one place could have, especially surrounding an airport. And as if to increase my anticipation just a little bit more, my plane to Nuuk was delayed by about seven hours. So I went for a walk with one of my program leaders who had accompanied me to Greenland. At that time, I did not know much about the nature here, and was surprised to recognize a few similar plant species to the ones back home in Minnesota.
The majority of my time is spent helping as an English teaching assistant at GUX-Nuuk and Ilinniarfissuaq. In some classes I help with the lesson plans, while in others I help with conversational skills or serve as a cultural reference for my country. I think it is a lot of fun to work with all of the students and learn about the different backgrounds everyone comes from as well as share a piece of me and my home with them.
Over the last two months I have had the opportunity to go on boat trips and explore the fjord system, seeing whales and getting close to icebergs. I also had the chance to go with Ilinniarfissuaq on a trip up the Kobbefjord and while there learned about all the edible plants that grow here, including blueberries and blackberries. On this trip, I was able to get a glimpse into Greenlandic culture by enjoying cozy nights while everyone told stories and sang songs together. It was during this trip that I knew I wanted to learn as much Greenlandic as possible, even to be able to understand a few phrases.
While I have only been in Greenland for a short time, I recently had the opportunity to travel to Ittoqqortoormiit with a teacher from Ilinniarfissuaq and two of her research assistants. It was very enlightening to see a completely different side of Greenland and learn more about sled dogs and life in a more isolated town. One of the locals graciously invited us into her home for coffee and also took the time to take us on a tour of the town on her ATV. Something that I find special about Greenland is how willing people are to teach a stranger about their home. And while I do not speak Greenlandic or Danish, I find that most people are willing to try to communicate with me, no matter their level of English.
Since my arrival, even on such a gloomy day, I have felt welcome and at home. Greenland has taught me something new each and every day. Sometimes, as I walk down the streets and notice the stark color of the houses against the snow, I feel as though I’m living in a dream. I never could have imagined, even six months ago, that I would have the opportunity to spend almost a year in Greenland. While I still have another eight months here, it is all going by so quickly that I feel I must cherish every moment that I have. Greenland has given me so much so far and I can’t wait to share what I learn with everyone back home."