Six Transylvanians receive Fulbright awards
Transylvania’s international reach will span three continents in the coming months as six current and former students begin teaching assistantships through the prestigious Fulbright Program.
All six—seniors Andrew Owen, Katie Thornton, and Rachael Williams and recent graduates Stefanie Brock ’08, Lauren Covert ’08, and Erik Weber ’07—were awarded English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grants that will take them to classrooms in Colombia, Austria, Argentina, Malaysia, and Korea.
“These six Fulbright Scholars will build upon their earlier experiences as they live and work in different countries, representing the United States and the Commonwealth with the knowledge, values, and skills they developed at Transylvania,” said William F. Pollard, vice president and dean of the college.
The Fulbright Program, the largest international exchange program in the United States, was established in 1946 to foster mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries. It gives recent college graduates opportunities for personal and career development, as well as international experience. In addition to the ETA grants, the Fulbright Program also awards study and research grants.
“These postgraduate scholarships, particularly through the Fulbright Program, are wonderful opportunities,” said Kathy Simon, Transy’s director of study abroad and special programs. “The open up all kinds of doors.”
Five of the six ETA winners have previous study abroad experience, including Rachael Williams, who will spend a little more than a year in Korea assisting secondary school students with their English language skills. Williams has a passion for travel and has traveled extensively throughout Europe, including in Ireland, where she spent a semester of study.
“I think one of the big reasons (I was awarded a grant) was because of all the traveling I have done,” she said. “I’m able to immerse myself in a culture and adapt.”
Williams applied to Korea, in part, because it’s in a region of the world she’s never seen, but also because it’s one of the countries in which applicants are not required to be fluent in the native language. She is already teaching herself some of the basics of the Korean language, but will have the opportunity to take formal classes once she arrives.
Along with a passion for travel, Williams is devoted to helping other people. While in Korea, she plans to start a book club for her students.
For Lauren Covert, who will live and teach in Austria for eight months, the experience will allow her to become more proficient in the German language.
“I’m currently on my third extended stay in Germany, so I applied to the Austrian program in order to polish my German language skills and mix things up by learning about Austrian culture at the same time,” said Covert, who majored in German at Transy.
Covert also looks forward to taking on a new challenge – teaching. The Fulbright Program facilitated Covert’s placement through the Austrian Ministry of Education.
“This is my chance to try it out,” she said.
Erik Weber, another Transylvanian fluent in German, has also received an assignment from the Austrian government. He had not yet decided whether he will accept the assignment, but said he is glad to have the opportunity to continue teaching English to high school students. He currently teaches German to high schoolers through Kentucky Educational Television.
Stefanie Brock is heading to Colombia for 10 months. Brock, who is proficient in Spanish, will be placed at a Colombian University.
“I have a history of Spanish, with nine years in school, and I’m currently working with the local Hispanic population in Lexington,” Brock said. “I wanted to serve in a Hispanic population to further my fluency and comprehension.”
In addition to teaching English, Brock plans to use her biology background to promote environmental responsibility in a country she said is in “dire need” of environmental education. In particular, she wants to share information about edible lawns.
Andrew Owen, who is likewise proficient in Spanish, is assigned to an eight-month stay in Argentina. It’s a “nice fit,” he said, because of a previous study abroad experience in the South American country. Plus, with an eye toward continuing his education in international studies, Owen said it will serve him well to have extensive knowledge of and experience in a single country.
“A Fulbright fellowship is supposed to open a lot of doors,” he said.
More importantly, he said the experience will enable him to further the Fulbright Program’s goal of promoting mutual understanding between countries. Owen plans to start a community theater program in the city where he’s assigned.
“What better way to increase mutual understanding than to have people stand in somebody else’s shoes … on stage,” he said.
Although Katie Thornton has not previously studied abroad, she acquired a “taste” for experiencing new cultures during a three-week May term service learning course in the Philippines earlier this year. She will spend at least seven months in Malaysia as a teaching assistant.
“I developed a keen interest in Asian cultures and discovered the intense rewards from becoming involved in a community abroad,” she wrote in her application.
In addition to her teaching duties, Thornton plans to work with a local group that lends to small businesses, many of which are headed by women. She will also use her lifelong interest in sports, particularly soccer, to start an after-school sports club.