The Kent State University speaking coordinator had been attending conferences on teaching English to speakers of other languages — commonly known as TESOL — on and off for the past decade. He had spotted the U.S. Department of State recruiting at the events for some of its fellowships, and had even sat in on a few informational sessions.
Barry Simpson is heading overseas on a teaching fellowship.
“I kept telling myself, ‘one day, I’m going to do that,” the 59-year-old said. “And the time came.”
Next month, Simpson will be headed to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a 10-month appointment to teach English.
Simpson, who currently resides in South Euclid but spent 10 years living in Solon, is one of only 160 Americans selected for this year’s English Language Fellow Program, according to the State Department. He’ll be stationed at the University of Bihac, a public university with about 3,000 to 5,000 students.
Simpson said his new duties will be pretty similar to what he’s been doing in Northeast Ohio. He’ll be teaching undergraduate students English, along with working with English educators who plan to teach in the country’s schools. He said he also wants to spend time teaching English in the community.
“Now in its 50th year, the English Language Fellow Program has sent thousands of TESOL scholars and educators abroad to promote English-language learning, enhance English-teaching capacity and foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through cultural exchange,” State Department officials explained in a news release.
During the application process, Simpson was able to indicate where he’d like to be stationed.
“I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell them Europe and South America,'” he explained. “The first place they offered me was Bosnia, and I said ‘sounds good to me.'”
He hasn’t visited the country of roughly 3.8 million people before, but said he’s most looking forward to learning about a new culture and correcting some of the stereotypes people have about American culture.
And, of course, the chance to indulge in a new cuisine. Simpson expects it’ll be pretty heavy on meat and potatoes.
“It’s a very rich area for food,” he said. “They’ve been part of the Ottoman Empire, they’ve been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they’ve had Venetian influence, they’ve had all of these different cultural influences on their food.”
Dining will probably be an area of interest for his wife of 32 years, Karen, who’s also making the trip. Simpson said his spouse was a food scientist for Nestle for more than three decades, and is interested in volunteering in their new community to help companies in regard to food safety issues.