When Lucy Gebre-Egziabher learned she would be teaching film studies in her home country of Ethiopia as a Fulbright Scholar, she referred to the opportunity as a double blessing.
Lucy Gebre-Egziabher, assistant professor in Northern Virginia Community College’s Communication Studies and Theater Department, taught film studies and conducted a “From Script to Screen” seminar at Rift Valley University, the largest private university in Ethiopia. She also assisted the university’s Communication and Journalism Department in developing a film curriculum.
Before arriving, Lucy Gebre-Egziabher asked the admissions department to encourage women to enroll. Students flocked to the course.
“I asked them to limit the creative class to 20 so I can work with students individually,” Lucy Gebre-Egziabher said. “When they called back, they said more than 150 students enrolled. I thought to myself, ‘These kids are thirsty for this information and opportunity. Who am I to say no?’”
Because of high demand, Lucy Gebre-Egziabher taught 52 students in the day – including 12 women – and 75 at night from October 26 to December 6. Giving back to her country was an enlightening and emotional experience. When it was time to return home, she felt such appreciation for her students, knowing she had gained just as much from them.
“When I arrived to class the first day, there was a projector but no screen. So I went to talk to the administrators. By the time I returned, the students had set up two chairs with a white board sitting on it and that was our screen,” Lucy Gebre-Egziabher said. “These students did amazing work without the same resources we have here. They blew my mind and touched my heart.”
After completing her Fulbright program, Lucy Gebre-Egziabher was asked by the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa to conduct a screenwriting workshop for Ethiopian women journalists and filmmakers. This was part of the U.S. Embassy’s campaign to raise awareness on gender-based violence (GBV). Participants explored the various forms of GBV and each took a theme to use in their scripts. Upon completion, participants came out of the workshop with a five-minute script. The top three were selected to be produced into a short film.
“My students’ enthusiasm and determination inspired me as a human being and as a teacher. Having taught in the U.S. and now in Ethiopia, I feel my students in the U.S., who have everything at their fingertips, from resources, to information, to education, could learn a lot from my students in Ethiopia, who made things happen in spite of the obstacles,” she said. “I learned that I can be an even better teacher. It was one of the most valuable experiences I have had not only as a teacher but also as a human being.”
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