Focus on Faculty/Staff
Chesapeake College Professor Finishes Fulbright

Dr. Andree Fee taught in Albania on educational exchange

Posted on Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dr. Andree Fee (center) is shown here with Albanian folk dancers in Tirana. She recently returned from a four-month assignment as a Fulbright Scholar. 

WYE MILLS – Dr. Andree Fee, a member of the Chesapeake College English faculty, recently returned from her stint as a Fulbright Scholar in Albania.

Dr. Fee was selected as a Fulbright Scholar for the Spring 2010 semester and returned to the Eastern Shore in July. She lived in Albania, working with students who plan to teach English. The Fulbright program, launched in 1946, is the nation´s flagship international educational exchange program.

"I had expected this to be a good experience, but I had no idea this would help me grow both personally and professionally," Dr. Fee said. "Being a Fulbright Scholar in Albania was a professional dream come true for me and the experience of a lifetime."

Dr. Fee taught English classes to education students at the University of Tirana in the capital city. The master´s-level students were in their 20s and planned to teach English as a second language in Albania. They were highly motivated and dedicated, according to the professor.

"These were some of the best university students in the country and I was impressed by their commitment to learning. It was clear on the first day that they wanted to learn as much as possible," Dr. Fee said. "It is every teacher´s dream to have a class full of students who are eager and want an intellectual challenge. They were a pleasure to teach."

As she prepares for the fall semester at Chesapeake, Dr. Fee said she expects that some of her experiences in Albania will be part of her work in the classroom.

"This experience changed me and I´m sure that will affect my teaching in a positive way," Dr. Fee said. "I look forward to teaching small classes again. My classes in Albania were large, so I´ll appreciate working more closely with individual students again. I think I´ll be less rigid and more willing to explore new topics in the class now."

With so many students in Albania, Dr. Fee had expected to teach in traditional, grand lecture halls. Instead, she stood at the front of large dismal rooms crammed with tables and chairs.

The supplies and facilities were sparse, she said. Most professors did not have offices, and instead conducted meetings or graded assignments in coffee houses. As Chesapeake begins another academic year with newly renovated classroom space, Dr. Fee said she is struck by the quality of the facilities here compared with those in Albania.

"I found myself going back to the very basics of teaching. One day I was lecturing to a class of 150 people and the power went out. There were frequent power outages in Tirana this summer and this didn´t faze the students, so I just kept going. The class was so dark that I had to use the light from my cell phone screen to illuminate the blackboard," she said

"We take the technology and great facilities for granted at Chesapeake," added Dr. Fee. "I´m starting this new semester with a real appreciation for all the resources and support we have as instructors. I´m sure I´ll be telling my colleagues and students how lucky we are to have all of these resources."

As a first-time visitor to Albania, Dr. Fee said she found the people warm, open and refreshingly blunt.

"Everyone I encountered was so interested in the United States. I think they probably knew more about our country than I did! They constantly asked questions, some of which would be considered too personal by most Americans," Dr. Fee said. "I got used to it, though, because they were so genuinely interested in what I had to say. I came to appreciate their curiosity and honesty."

The professor said she also had to adjust to a different lifestyle and different pace.

"When I arrived in Albania I came with that all-American love of structure. We want to know what to expect and exactly when it will happen. On the day I started teaching, I had no idea what classes I´d been assigned or where they were located. I was freaking out."

The first day went well, she said, and gradually she allowed a new rhythm to take over.

"Albanians take things as they come and they seem to enjoy spontaneity. By the time I left, I´d started to enjoy the serendipity that comes with taking life one day at a time. It was great to wake up in the morning and not know where the day would take me," Dr. Fee said.

While in Albania, Dr. Fee said she appreciated the natural beauty and rich culture of the country. With its pristine beaches, majestic mountains and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Albania is a future tourist magnet, according to international travel experts. Dr. Fee said she feels lucky to have seen the country before it becomes popular with tourists.

"I visited Roman ruins that were just out in a field and so accessible. I was able to run my hand over beautiful mosaic murals built in the 1st Century," she said. "The country won´t be unspoiled for long. Albanians are eager to join the European Union and that will mean increased tourism. I look forward to visiting Albania again, but I´m sure it will not be exactly the same."

Dr. Fee said the exchange was an opportunity to represent her profession, her country and Chesapeake College.

"We are doing great work at institutions like Chesapeake College. I hope I gave the students I worked with in Albania a view of how we do things at the community colleges, where the emphasis is on teaching and active learning."

Dr. Fee earned her undergraduate and master´s degrees at Loyola College in Baltimore and her doctorate from Penn State University. She began her career as a VISTA volunteer in Baltimore teaching adult literacy courses. Dr. Fee has been an instructor at Chesapeake for nine years, where she teaches composition, developmental reading/writing, educational certification, and interdisciplinary courses.


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