While taking general education courses at College of DuPage, Vero Barcutean enrolled in Introduction to Anthropology.
“This was taught by Dr. Alex Bolyanatz and he taught so passionately, I found the class very motivating and inspiring,” she said. “I decided I wanted to pursue anthropology and proceeded to enrol in all the other anthropology courses available over the two years I attended COD. There was not a single subfield of anthropology that I delved in that didn’t interest me and I thought it might be something I would like to study long-term.”
Barcutean chose COD because of the affordable tuition.
“My family and I had immigrated to the U.S. only two years before and with my older brother also attending university, we didn’t have a lot of money,” she said. “Therefore, this was the only option we could afford at the time. It was also close to home, which allowed me to commute and work part time. So I was able to save a bit of money while studying.”
Once she started attending, Barcutean realized COD was the perfect fit for her. She appreciated the quality of instruction and of the facilities, and she enjoyed the small class sizes that allowed her to make friends and access the professors.
Barcutean also enjoyed a life-changing experience when she traveled to the Czech Republic as part of the Archaeological and Bioarchaeological Field School program offered through COD.
“We excavated a medieval graveyard, analysed great Moravian skeletons, and worked and lived for five weeks alongside Czech students of archaeology,” she said. “The relationships that I formed have provided me with a family of sorts in the Czech Republic. I ended up moving and living there for two years after I finished my studies. Even though I now live elsewhere, I am still in touch with most of the people who were part of the field school and we speak regularly. It is very difficult to put into words the fondness I feel for the times I was a student at COD and particularly the summer field school.”
After receiving her Associate in Arts degree, Barcutean transferred to North Central College and earned a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and a minor in French. During her summers, she returned to the Czech Republic as a volunteer for the field school and then was hired by Masaryk University in Brno to work on its summer excavation program. Upon graduating from NCC, she obtained a teaching certificate from the International TEFL Academy in Chicago and taught English in the Czech Republic.
During her time there, she travelled around Europe, working with the Archaeology Department team from Masaryk University and teaching English at summer schools in England. Meeting new people in that environment and enjoying her teaching jobs prompted Barcutean to apply for a master’s degree to reinforce her teaching skills and accepted an offer from University of Nottingham.
Halfway through her master’s program, she was offered a part-time job at University of Nottingham’s International College teaching English for Academic Purposes to pre-masters students. She stayed on after graduating to work at the International College while obtaining a social sciences teaching job at Trent University in Nottingham.
“It was a very fulfilling experience and I thoroughly enjoyed my time being able to go back to my university books and notes and connect with my students over our passion for anthropology and social sciences,” she said. “Often, in the classroom, I was able to relate experiences from the field school to the lectures scheduled, enriching the lessons.”
In the summer of 2019, Barcutean was offered a 10-week contract working directly for University of Nottingham’s Centre of English Language Education (CELE). Her contract was then extended for the entire year and she is working full time as an English for Academic Purposes tutor.
“I would love to continue working in higher education and perhaps also obtain a Ph.D. at some point,” she said. “It seems that often my career plans do not always follow a clear path, so this far I have been happy just seeing where the next opportunity comes from. I would love to work in different higher education contexts in different countries, so I have been looking at Belgium and France but also the Czech Republic, as I would love to go back there one day!”
As for COD, Barcutean considers her experience extremely fulfilling.
“In my high school, community college was not seen as a ‘cool’ option,” she said. “But once I arrived at COD, I got to study all the general courses I needed at a significantly lower cost with just as good of quality, if not better. I also really appreciated the theater plays that were available, the exhibits, the variety of courses and the resources available. If students can find a course that offers an opportunity to study abroad, and they can afford it, they should absolutely go for it. It’s such a wholesome experience and a chance to meet new people and expand our worldview.
“When I started at COD, I wasn’t very sure of what I wanted to study but knew I wanted a university degree. Following the general education courses in my first term and sampling the courses gave me the option to see what sparked my interest, and from there a sea of opportunities has opened. The experience was beyond my expectations.”