Over a cup of homemade chai, Aadil Zeffer and UNC associate professor John Caldwell discuss teaching Hindi-Urdu. As a Fulbright scholar, Zeffer brings his educational and professional experiences, as well as his culture, to the University — such as making his colleagues Indian chai.
Originally from northern India, Zeffer will spend the year as a lecturer in the UNC Department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies, teaching Hindi-Urdu. His international educational background includes studying in seven different countries, along with teaching in India, the U.S., the U.K. and Saudi Arabia.
"In other words, the Fulbright scholarship gives us the opportunity to be a part of something bigger while we can learn about others. The world is always better if we willingly jump at every opportunity to improve our knowledge," Zeffer said.
The Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program is a government-sponsored program that gives educators from various countries the opportunity to become teaching assistants at a university in the U.S.
Zeffer is a part of the third round of Fulbright FLTA scholars to come to UNC, Caldwell said. Starting in 2019, the University welcomed teaching assistants from other countries. He teaches in the South Asian language section of the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
After specifying what both the University and the scholar needs, the Fulbright program matches UNC with a scholar from another country who can teach in a specific department. This year, the department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies was short staffed and needed someone to help teach Hindi-Urdu, giving Zeffer the opportunity to gain teaching experience in the U.S.
Caldwell emphasized the importance of having a teaching assistant that is fully knowledgeable of language and culture.
“In the classroom, it's great to have someone who's a native speaker,” Caldwell said. “When we teach language — we don't just teach grammar, we teach lots of other things, including culture, sociolinguistics and how language and culture interact. He'll be good at sort of explaining some of the traditions behind how the language works in the classroom.”
Caldwell's academic areas of focus include postmodernism, gothic fiction and poetry.