2018 in Review

In 2018, I celebrated my 30th birthday ๐Ÿ˜ฎ! I also created this, my personal website, and began to indiewebify it. Thanks to that, you now get the chance to share in my triumphs and failings. Here is a recap of some of the highlights of the past year.

But first, a fun video.


Family

My wife and I celebrated our third anniversary early in the year. We began our adventures in Israel as part of my Fulbright Fellowship, which has been quite a wild journey. Our son and daughter turned two and one respectively. This was our first full year raising two kids, and we’ve realized that two is twice as hard but also twice as fun! Who knows what having three kids will bring?


Education

I managed to finish my thesis and graduate from the University of Texas at Austin with an M.A. in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures. My completed thesis can be found at its GitHub repo, here. All of the code can be found at a separate repo, here.

I also spent much of the summer working on tech and teaching skills. I managed to completed 12 courses on DataCamp. I completed the entire Python Programming skill track and almost half of the Data Scientist with Python career track. This was an incredible learning experience within a brand new area of study for me. I first had the chance to get my feet wet in the field of data science as part of my thesisโ€”all of which only wet my appetite for more. I highly recommend DataCamp to anyone interested in developing these kinds of skills.

In preparation for my Fulbright assignment, I also completed the first half of the TESOL certificate offered by Arizona State University through Coursera. I’m still working on this, though much more slowly now since life keeps me busy.

Lastly, I applied to my top three Ph.D. programs. My list started out being much longer, but my dreams of going to one of these three schools got the better of me, and I decided to take the risk. The schools are Stanford, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania. My studies will focus on a combination of educational technology, learning analytics, and second language acquisition. Well, if I get in anywhere, that is.


Fulbright

Back in April I received the wonderful news that I had been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Israel. I began my duties as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in October, and I have since been living in northern Israel where it’s green and beautiful.

My assignment provides me with varied types of work at Oranim Academic College of Education. My responsibilities include teaching classes, helping teachers with grading and other duties, leading conversation groups, meeting with students one-on-one or in small groups, mentoring elementary school students at an after-school English club, and preparing materials and workshops for new English teachers. Everything I do is related to English teaching. It’s been such a wonderful adventure so far.


Academic presentations

I presented at three academic conferences / lecture series in 2018.

In February, I presented at the Jil Jadid Graduate Student Conference in Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures. This took place in Austin, Texas. My presentation was titled “Transitional Semi-Allophonic Spirantization in Tiberian Hebrew.”

In April, I presented at the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL) 21st Annual Conference held in Herndon, Virginia. My presentation was titled “The Effect of Non-English Morphology and Unvocalized Spelling on the Creation of a Modern Hebrew Vocabulary Frequency List.”

In October, I gave a lecture as part of the “Language Matters!” Lecture Series at the Texas Language Center. I was already living in Israel at the time, so I gave my lecture remotely. My presentation was titled “Language Learning for the 21st Century: Interpersonal Communication Through Digital Communities.” A recording of the entire lecture is found below.


Books read

I managed to read 15 books this year. This is close to my yearly average, though it’s only half of my goal of 30 that I set at the beginning of the year.

  1. January: “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff
  2. February: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson
  3. February: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  4. April: A Practical Guide to Integrating Technology Into Task-Based Language Teaching by Marta Gonzaalez-Lloret
  5. April: Teacher’s Handbook: Contextualized Language Instruction by Judith L. Shrum and Eileen W. Gleesan
  6. April: Language Learning with Technology by Graham Stanley
  7. April: Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor
  8. May: Ender’s Shadow (The Shadow Series, #1) by Orson Scott Card
  9. May: Shadow of the Hegemon (The Shadow Series, #2) by Orson Scott Card
  10. August: The Learning Brain by Thad Polk (OK fine, this is actually from the Great Lectures series. But I’m including it here.)
  11. August: Statistics: A Very Short Introduction by David J. Hand
  12. September: The Standard of Truth: 1815โ€“1846 (Saints, #1) by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  13. October: The Open Revolution: Rewriting the Rules of the Information Age by Rufus Pollock
  14. November: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
  15. December: The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day by Andy Puddicombe


Miscellaneous

  • Really enjoyed working as a teaching assistant one last semester for a Modern Hebrew class at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Celebrated my dad’s 60th birthday in Colombia.
  • Taught 286 English lessons online to children in China through VIPKid.
  • Took the GRE again since one of the Ph.D. programs I applied to required scores from the last two years. I had done really well last time I took it, but this time I prepared even more using Magoosh and totally killed it.


Future

It sure was a great year. But I also failed to accomplish many of the things I set out to do. Reflecting on the past should always serve as an opportunity to set goals for the future. Here is just a brief list of some of the things I set out to do this year but failed:

  • Fine-tune and publish the research portion of my M.A. thesis in an academic journal.
  • Fine-tune and publish the frequency dictionary that I created as part of my M.A. thesis.
  • Complete the Data Scientist with Python career specialization at DataCamp.
  • Complete and receive the Arizona State University TESOL certificate.
  • Reach my goal of reading 30 books in one year.
  • Fully implement the Webmention and Micropub standards on this site.

I include these here because they’re things I still hope to accomplish. What will my “2019 in review” looks like? Wish me luck!