Fulbright Fellowships are granted to recent graduates and young alumni for a variety of activities, including teaching English, study, and research abroad. This year F&M seniors and alumni won an unprecedented 5 Fulbrights—4 ETAs (Taiwan, Thailand, Poland, and Mexico) and a Study Grant (funding a Masters degree in the UK).
When asked their Fulbright experience, here’s what F&M alumni have to say:
Valeri Harteg ’11, Guatemala English Teaching Assistantship: My Fulbright experience was and is so much more than something impressive to include on my resume or mention in an interview. On the verge of beginning a master’s program with a concentration in TESOL at Temple University, I reflect on what led me to this decision, and there’s no doubt that my English Teaching Assistantship in Guatemala kindled this major vocational move. As a natural continuation of my job tutoring at the F&M Writing Center and, in particular, working with ESL students, my assistantship allowed me to further explore a budding interest in supporting second language learners. What’s more, I gained an understanding of the immigrant experience that urged me to think deeply about my own increasingly diverse community in Reading, Pennsylvania. While the English classroom was familiar to me, everything else was very unfamiliar. I was forced to see my world through a new cultural lens and to interact with that world in a different language. Since I’ve returned to PA, I’ve drawn on that experience to empathize with my adult English learners and with the immigrant population at large. Not only did my Fulbright opportunity provide me the chance to unpack a passion ignited at F&M, but it also set me up to be unique and successful in the teaching field. I can’t wait to get started.
Will Hancock-Cerutti ’12, France Academic/Research Grant: The Fulbright Program provided me with the support to spend a year in Paris, taking classes for a Master’s degree and pursuing an independent biomedical research project, all while exploring a deep culture that had long intrigued me. Aside from the obvious benefits of living and working in such a beautiful and vibrant city, I was fortunate to meet wonderful people, and to develop friendships and professional relationships that persist through temporal and spatial separation. The experience and independence that I gained through managing my own research project and navigating day-to-day life in a foreign country has given me the renewed confidence and motivation to continue my education in an MD/PhD program, which I will begin this summer.
Phil Ehrig ’13, Germany English Teaching Assistantship: Receiving the Fulbright Grant to work as an ETA in Germany has given me almost a year of uninhibited immersion in German culture. It's one thing to study abroad, it's another to live there outside of the academic structure, especially in Germany. My luck meant that I was sent to a small city outside of Dresden, Saxony, in the former East. Not only do I experience the Germany of which we as Americans often think (the economic juggernaut and banker of the EU), but also a country (well part of a country) which for years lay behind the Iron Curtain. My landlord has been my liaison to this Germany and I cannot really explain how interesting it is just to talk to a man who was born at the time of the Berlin Airlift and therefore spent much of his life under the Stasi state. His stories and his perspective on modern events always fascinate. Spending time in Germany has also shown me that even though the US exerts soft (and hard) power across the globe, from Coke cans to Hollywood blockbusters, our country is often surrounded in this mystique. How we live, who we are, what we do - the view is almost as though it's through a glass darkly, which is why intercultural communication and education are things with which I hope to remain involved in the years to come in one form or another.
Aria Ogawa '13, Taiwan English Teaching Assistantship: (Note: Aria has been offered a second Fulbright year and will remain in Taiwan teaching English for the 2014-2015 year as well.) The extent of learning about Taiwan and its people through living and teaching has been tremendous. As much as I am learning about the differences about Taiwan and my own two cultures, I am seeing that there are more things universal across cultures that make us more similar than different. Through Fulbright's mission to facilitate cultural exchange and develop mutual understanding, my goals to become a bridge to connect people and ideas across cultures have shifted my professional interests towards education.
This year’s Fulbright awardees share their experience with the application process and their hopes for the coming year:
Valerie Sauers ’11, Thailand English Teaching Assistantship: (Note: Valerie has spent the last 3 years living and teaching English in Spain through the Spanish Government English Teaching Assistantship) The Fulbright application process was much less painful than I thought it would be (thank you!). I always thought that Fulbrights were exclusively for valedictorians or perfect students. Writing the statements opened my eyes to the fact that it goes way beyond the grades. It’s not only important to acknowledge the things that you have done, but also the things that you are passionate about, and will do in the future. I chose Thailand because it is unlike any country I have ever been immersed in. I am most excited to learn about the traditions, religion, natural beauty, and smiling culture through the eyes of my students and neighbors, while sharing my own knowledge and experience of living in the U.S.A. and Spain.
Melissa Serrano ’14, Mexico English Teaching Assistantship: The Fulbright application process challenges you to create concise clarity. It limits our essays to a page to cause applicants to carefully define the impact we want to create internationally, as well as how the opportunity of working and learning abroad would contribute to our future career goals. To be honest, writing my personal statement for Fulbright enabled me to highlight a few of the experiences that have made me who I am today. Through this writing process of acknowledging both my accomplishments and struggles, I unknowingly convinced my readers and myself, that I would be a great U.S Ambassador abroad.