Dustin Robson is a current LTS student from right here in Eugene, Oregon. He is currently in the 2nd term of the program, and is here today to tell us a bit about himself, how he’s doing in LTS so far, and what his plans for the future are!
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? Where have you traveled?
While originally from Long Beach, California, I’ve actually lived in Eugene for most of my life. My family moved up to Oregon when I was pretty young, so I like to consider myself a real Oregonian! I haven’t traveled as extensively as some of our cohort, but I’ve been all over the West and Midwest parts of the US (including parts of Canada and Mexico), as well as Japan and Vietnam.
What made you want to join the LTS program?
Having lived in Eugene before, I also attended the University of Oregon for my undergraduate years. I majored in Japanese, and I also earned the SLAT (Second Language Acquisition and Teaching) certificate for English. Many of those courses overlap with the LTS program, so I had the pleasure of taking courses taught by LTS faculty, and working alongside the 2017-18 cohort. I made friends with several members of that cohort, and also FLTAs (Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants) from that year, and their praise for the program and its faculty were a major factor for my decision to apply to it as well.
Between graduation and beginning the LTS program, what were you up to?
After graduating from the UO, I left to go to teach English in Vietnam, in a small town called Vũng Tàu.
It’s a coastal city about 70 miles east of Ho Chi Minh City, known for its tourism and beaches. I chose Vung Tau to teach in as opposed to Ho Chi Minh City, because I liked the idea of working in a smaller town, and one without a large surplus of foreigners and expats teaching English. I felt that I would have more opportunities for leading my own classes, and really getting to stretch all my teaching muscles, and I also felt I would be filling a great need for the school I worked at.
The initial couple of months were very difficult getting adjusted to life in a new country, and there were many things that were quite scary at first (motorbikes and the traffic!), but I eventually was able to get into a groove with both living and teaching there. From all the chaos of those early days there, I was really able to learn a lot about myself as a teacher and as a person. Being able to work with learners as young as five years old, all the way up to 18 years old (and a few adults as well) was a terrific chance for me to develop so many skills as a teacher, and also learn lots about what I don’t know, and need to improve. Overall, the experience was absolutely essential, and a very formative journey for me.
You’re in the second term of the LTS program — how has it been going so far? What have been some of the highlights up until this point?
Everything has been going well! Having lived in Eugene for years, there isn’t really any living adjustments for me, but for those in our cohort (and the FLTAs) who are new to Eugene, it has been great getting to show them around town, and see what it’s like for someone to experience life in Oregon for the first time! Recently some of us were able to get together and carve some pumpkins for Halloween, which was a wonderful (and messy) experience to share with all who were able to attend.
Aside from life in Eugene, Oregon, one of my absolute highlights from this past Summer was helping out with the Fulbright Orientation that was hosted by the UO this past August. From August 18-22 63 Fulbrighters came to Eugene to prepare for a year abroad in the US. The event had a little of everything, from panel discussions on life as an international student in the US, to games and recreation, and even a bit of microteaching! Yamada Language Center’s Jeff Magoto (and his wonderful team) helped coordinate the event, along with the assistance of many LTS faculty, and current/past members of LTS. It was a great privilege to be able to help, even in a small way, with this wonderful event, that brought people from all parts of the world together in Eugene. Many friendships were made that week, before 59 of those Fulbrighters left to other schools across the country. Four Fulbrighters stayed at UO for the year, and are in classes with many of the current LTS cohort right now. You can learn more about them here: https://babel.uoregon.edu/meet-uos-fltas
In addition to helping with the Fulbright event, I have also been working at Yamada Language Center helping in any way that I can. I have had the pleasure of helping Director Jeff Magoto present ANVILL at two conferences so far, COFLT and recently, ORTESOL. I’m also helping run the Yamada Language Center Language Exchange program, which serves as a way for students to find others to meet up with, and share each others languages! More information on that can be found here: https://babel.uoregon.edu/language-programs/language-exchange
You mentioned ORTESOL. Could you tell us more about what that is?
Sure! ORTESOL is a conference that was held on November 15th and 16th up in Clackamas, Oregon. As the name implies, ORTESOL is the Oregon chapter of TESOL, and the conferences have many wonderful people presenting on topics in the world of English language teaching. At this most recent conference, there were presenters from past LTS alum, teachers at AEI, and LTS faculty. I was up there helping Jeff Magoto give a presentation on interactive video (housed within ANVILL, an education platform created by an LTS alum — Norman Kerr), and its many uses within a language classroom.
Any ideas on what your MA final project may look like?
It’s still really early, we only just turned in our practice proposals! However, working with Jeff on ANVILL over the past several months, I am interested in further pursuing the idea of transforming traditional language classrooms through the use of technology. It’s still the very early stages, but that’s currently the thread that I’m pulling on the most! Ask me again in two months — my answer may have changed!
Lastly, any plans for the holidays?
Lots of much needed rest, and time spent with friends and family. I wasn’t around for the holidays last year, so I’m looking forward to making up for lost time this year!