Joseph Villarama, the 2021-22 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) for the Filipino Language, arrived in Ann Arbor just in time to catch the tail end of summer.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing all four seasons,” he says. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”
Joseph’s journey began in Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon, the Philippines, a region affectionately known as the “Rice Bowl” for its abundant production of Southeast Asia’s staple grain. He earned his bachelor's degree in secondary education with a concentration in English in 2015 from Central Luzon State University (CLSU) and continued on to receive his master's degree in the same field at Tarlac State University in 2018. His extensive training encompasses a wide swath of certifications and experience, including as a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) instructor, author and editor for the National Book Development Board (Philippines), and a mentor/teacher for exchange interns through Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), among others. In his most current role in the Philippines, Joseph works as an assistant professor at CLSU Science High School under the College of Education at his alma mater, where he teaches courses on topics such as journalism, oral and speech communication, English for academic and professional purposes, qualitative research, and purposive communication.
Joseph credits his inspiration for applying to the FLTA program to his upbringing as the eldest child in his family and his commitment to discipline, education, and expectation as the defining characteristics that guide his goals. As an English language educator, Joseph empathizes with the challenges that his students may face in their pursuit of education—such as poverty or a lack of resources—and strives to make learning more accessible and equitable.
During his year at the University of Michigan, Joseph is excited to once again occupy the role of both student and teacher. In addition to assisting in teaching the Filipino language, he is also pursuing coursework in Southeast Asian studies, Women and Gender studies, and Native American studies and is a frequent attendee at lectures and events across campus. Joseph shows unbridled enthusiasm when it comes to making the most of his time as an FLTA. “I’m looking forward to fulfilling the challenges I’ve set for myself: to teach my language, share my culture, and to learn new teaching strategies to better facilitate my classes when I return to the Philippines,” he shares.
As a cultural ambassador, Joseph eagerly listens to the stories of different people and appreciates the opportunity to witness and participate in other ways of living. So far, he has taken full advantage of experiencing autumn in Ann Arbor, from cheering on the football team at the Big House (“Go Blue!”) to picking apples at a local orchard. He enjoys sharing Filipino dishes and trying new cuisines at potlucks with his fellow FLTAs and takes special pride in connecting his Filipino language students with native speakers in the Philippines via Zoom. He sees the Fulbright FLTA program as a unique bridge that connects a variety of countries and their people to build positive connections and create a stronger sense of mutual respect, understanding, and community across space and time.
While Joseph is looking forward to his next seven months in Ann Arbor, he is also carefully laying the foundation for his future plans. He is interested in pursuing a doctorate program in the United States, with a concentration in applied linguistics, sociolinguistic, or English language education. Regardless, wherever his journey takes him, Joseph remains committed to his students back home: “When I go back to the Philippines, I plan to continue to inspire, encourage, and mentor others to reach their Fulbright and U.S. education dreams, and to sustain the collaborations between and among scholars all around the world.”
To learn more about the Southeast Asian language programs at the University of Michigan, including the Filipino language, please visit ii.umich.edu/cseas/students/language-programs.