They looked forward to the start of their Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships this fall, but in May, the Fulbright Program canceled all assistantships until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, these Franklin & Marshall College graduates pressed forward. Three of them used the opportunity to enrich their personal and professional skills, from participating in a protest march to brewing beer.
Harmony Zhao ’20 pivoted at the cancellation news and landed a job as a legislative associate at New York City Council, where she worked as an intern in her junior year, funded through the College’s Sidney Wise Public Service Internship Fellowship.
“I was so worried. I had seven months between graduation and going to Taiwan. I didn’t know what to do, so I called my former supervisor about a job five minutes after I found out,” Zhao said. “She said, ‘Of course, for you.’ I have a really good relationship with my supervisor because I interned there so I really just lucked out. So many of my friends are looking for jobs and it’s difficult right now finding work because of COVID-19.”
Zhao, who majored in government with a minor in Chinese, secured the job even as her supervisor knows that Zhao plans to head to Taiwan in January. Meanwhile, Zhao enjoys her job.
“I work really closely with the director of legislation and budget,” she said. “I’m still getting used to everything, but I’ll be helping to organize staff meetings and legislative meetings, and working on legislative issues in the district that my council member represents and figuring out ways that we can help our constituents in the best ways through legislation. Right now, it’s all COVID-19 issues so we’re thinking about the best ways that we can help the seniors in these communities, but also citywide, how we can help them access food.”
When she returns from her fellowship abroad, Zhao is considering a career related to public service, either in government consulting, philanthropy or national security.
Kathleen Miao ’20, who majored in environmental studies and art history, honed her nutritious cooking skills and studied for the Graduate Record Examination while searching for a paid internship until she leaves for Taiwan.
Among the programs Miao heard from is West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. FutureMap, a non-profit that helps first-generation college graduates prepare for the workforce, would sponsor the internship's funding. She heard about this opportunity through her program, SEO Scholars. She would work for them remotely.
Miao also is considering work at a local grocery store and has submitted contact tracer applications. In the meantime, she marched in the Washington, D.C. Black Lives Matter protest, and organized daily schedules to stay healthy such as walking and writing in her journal. A New York City native, she’s also learning how to drive.
“During this quarantine situation, it’s not only important to develop professional skills but personal skills,” she said.
Kate Meyers ’19 had just finished her Princeton in Asia Fellowship in Thailand when the pandemic cut her planned month of traveling short. She returned to her Florida home in March and two months later found an opportunity in Fulbright’s cancellation of her Poland fellowship.
“It gave me time to think about other jobs instead of getting up to September and they say, ‘Oh, you can’t come,’” Meyers said. She will be teaching English while working in the chemistry faculty at Poland’s Bialystok University of Technology during her Fulbright.
With her chemistry degree, Meyers eventually wants to enter the field of geochemistry – a combination of geology and chemistry – after graduate school. She landed a technician position that she starts in August in a geochemistry lab at Penn State, and completed a course at Johns Hopkins University to qualify her for a contact tracing job.
“I’ve been sending my resume to every contact-tracing job I can find,” she said.
Meanwhile, Meyers has brewed her first batch of beer.
“I’m brewing an amber ale; it’s already fermented and it’s carbonating right now in the bottle,” she said. “A big plan B or C in my life is working at a brewery.”