WUHAN, HUBEI PROVINCE, CHINA — Eastern Michigan University alumna Lauryn Gallo is a true child of Michigan.
Raised in Riga Township in southeastern Michigan, she graduated from Blissfield High and married a boy she first met in a Blissfield Middle School science class. She left Lenawee County and journeyed up to Washtenaw County for college, earning both her bachelor’s in linguistics (2010) and master’s degree in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) from Eastern Michigan University in 2013.
But while Gallo says she still adores the Wolverine State, today you’re more likely to find her in Southeast Asia than Southeast Michigan. She’s about to enter her third year as an elite English Language Fellow for the U.S. Department of State in China.
Strong training at Eastern Michigan
Being an English Language Fellow isn’t easy. The program has strict selection criteria and a rigorous interview process. Thus, State Department staff are quick to credit the training Gallo received in the TESOL master’s program at Eastern for her strong tenure as a fellow.
At Eastern, Gallo served as a graduate assistant and received endowment funding to represent the University at the International TESOL conferences in Philadelphia in 2012 and Dallas in 2013. While at Eastern, she tutored in the International Student Resource Center and taught a course in teaching English as a second language.
Once in, Fellows go abroad for ten-month stretches, often to challenging posts where they may be the only American – perhaps the only foreigner – in sight.
For Gallo, that has meant spending the last two years at Central China Normal University in Wuhan, though Wuhan has only been a home base for her. She’s traversed all of Eastern China, teaching and delivering workshops, from Hefei to Zhengzhou and from Beijing to Shantou. In between, she’s participated in conferences in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Chiang Mai, Thailand, among other places.
Showing Michigan's special shape
Still, don’t say Gallo has left Michigan behind. It would be more correct to say she’s brought Michigan with her to China. She was recently invited to do a presentation about her home state at Wuhan’s 403 International Art Center.
“Most Chinese people are already familiar with images and facts about states like California and New York, but they often do not know as much about the Midwest,” Gallo says.
She says she appreciated the chance to show that the Great Lakes State was its own kind of tourist paradise.
“We talked about apple picking in the fall, water sports in the summer, Motown music, and how to use your hand as a map,” she says.
She later gave a similar presentation in Xi’an, introducing Pure Michigan to the students and staff of the American Culture Center at Xi’an Foreign Affairs College.
Most attendees “did not know much about Michigan except that Detroit is known as the Motor City,” Gallo recalls.
Reflecting on the best of her home state, her alma mater, Eastern Michigan; and Michigan in general to international audiences who have rarely seen it – and probably never seen it outside of movies – has become a passion for Gallo.
Touching so many lives; transforming yourself
Meanwhile, there are plenty of challenges for a Fellow: a full teaching schedule, lots of work-related travel, constant language and cultural barriers to overcome.
Still, Gallo says she loves this lifestyle, “traveling with my husband and trying as many local dishes as we can.”
For her, the rewards are obvious.
“You don’t always realize it until you look back on everything you’ve done in a year—that you really have a rare opportunity to touch the lives of so many people and to be forever transformed yourself,” she says. “I feel so blessed to have this chance.”
About the English Language Fellow Program at The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
The English Language Fellow Program recruits both experienced English language professionals and recent master’s graduates trained in English as a foreign language and English as a second language. As Fellows, they travel abroad and assist with the improvement of English-teaching capacity around the world, with the ultimate goal of fostering a better understanding of the United States through cross-cultural partnerships.
Fellows are placed at universities, teacher-training institutions, ministries of education, and NGOs for ten-month assignments abroad to assist in the teaching of English at all levels, curriculum development, workshop and seminar design, and program evaluation, among other things. The program is administered by the Center for Intercultural Education and Development at Georgetown University.
State Department contact:
Dave Woods, Outreach Coordinator
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest university in Michigan. It currently serves 20,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.
Eastern Michigan University Contact
Executive Director of Media Relations