Alumna granted second Fulbright year in Bulgaria

Annabelle Fortine will teach English to elementary, high school students

| Author: Maureen Harke | Media Contact: Maureen Harke

A studio headshot of Annabelle Fortine in front of a dark backdrop wearing a black dress with a floral design.
Annabelle Fortine

Annabelle Fortine (’23), has spent the last 8 months teaching English in Sofia, Bulgaria on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant. As a Central Michigan University alumna with a bachelor’s degree in education, Fortine was prepared to lead a classroom. However, she encountered some surprises too.

“I have learned so much over the past year, both professionally and personally. It can be difficult to teach a classroom of 30 students when you are 100% the foreign language teacher, and do not speak the host language. I've had to greatly adapt my vocabulary and teaching strategies,” she said. 

The Fulbright Commission in Bulgaria strongly encourages ETAs to interact with their students outside of the classroom to enrich the learning experience for both the students and the ETA. Fortine took this opportunity to engage with her students to heart.

“I teach at an arts focused high school, and it is amazing learning from my students perspectives. I also coach an English speech and debate team for the Bulgarian English Speech Tournament Foundation which was created decades ago by Fulbright Bulgaria ETAs. I have grown the team this year by adding 15 new students. It has been empowering to be a part of my team’s personal and academic growth,” she said. 

Fortine has enjoyed her time teaching in Sofia so when an opportunity arose to apply for a second year in Bulgaria, she jumped at the chance. She is one of only six ETAs who were granted a second Fulbright year, and she looks forward to new challenges.

“My new placement is in Galabovo, Bulgaria, a more rural town that I will be commuting to every day (early in the morning) from Starzagora, a city in the center of Bulgaria,” she said. “I will be teaching at a local elementary school and a trades and automotive-focused high school. I expect that my students’ English levels will be lower, so I will have to strengthen my Bulgarian language skills to help bridge the gap with my students and host community.” 

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program aims to build mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and other countries. Fortine’s engagement with her host community has led to her own personal growth and changing perspectives. 

“I have had to adapt my type A personality to the more laid-back Bulgarian lifestyle. I have learned to not sweat the small stuff and that things need time. Bulgarians are more laid back when it comes to life stressors, and I think this quality has rubbed off on me.” 

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