This past Monday, Vassar announced the five Fulbright Fellowship recipients for studying abroad during the 2015-2016 period. Ian Edwards ’14, Carrie Perkins ’14 and Victoria Qiu ’14 will be teaching English in Germany, and Eleni Macrakis ’14 will be teaching in Malaysia. Sophia Wasserman ’13 will be traveling to Iceland with a grant as well as studying the fisheries and development of the country.
The Fulbright Scholarship program provides grants sponsored by the US government to graduating seniors and recent bachelor’s-degree recipients for either an individualized study/research project, or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. According to the Fulbright website, “The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think.”
This year’s Fulbright recipients have a myriad of goals that are for their journeys. Edwards, who says he has always been taught to value and respect languages, is a German and International Studies student and hopes to share his own culture in a country that he says has already taught him so much.
“I’m also thrilled that three people from the German Department will be on a Fulbright,” Ian said in an emailed statement. “I’ve so enjoyed being the Department Intern this past year, and this is definitely a high note to leave on.”
Macrakis is excited to start up some after-school programs in Malaysia. She hopes to create science clubs for girls, where they could create simple and fun experiments.
In an emailed statement, Eleni said, “We had a science club for girls at my elementary school which was free and was really my first exposure to science as a fun activity. I may want to work in science education in the future, so I think this would be a great way to see how community outreach can help get kids excited about science.”
For the past four years, Vassar has been listed among the top ten producers of Fulbright grants. Last year, 11 out of the 40 applicants received the award, putting Vassar in the top five.
Vassar supports both current students and recent alumni in their application process. Recipients are chosen by the National Screening Committee after completing an application consisting of academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, language report forms and a personal statement. The personal statement gives applicants the opportunity to explain to the committee what they are interested in accomplishing while they are abroad, as well as how they plan to apply what they learn and experience to their professional ambitions.
Students wishing to apply for a Fulbright grant typically contact Lisa Kooperman or the Office for Fellowships and Pre-Health advising. Applications are due in the beginning of fall semester.
According to the Fulbright website, “It is important also that the Personal Statement be completed carefully, since it is through this essay that committee members obtain a picture of the student as a person…The committee takes into consideration the nature of the project, its originality…and the interest of the student as evidenced by any advance research he/she may have done to determine that the resources he/she will need to accomplish his/her proposed project are in fact available in the potential host country.”
Although a long and competitive process, the program is well worth the effort for those who apply. Anna Frumkin ’12, who received the award last year and is currently teaching in Germany, wrote in an emailed statement, “I work at a secondary school with kids from 5th through 12th grade…our latest project was to make a film about our German school for American students and teachers…I’m lucky enough to be pretty centrally located in Europe and have gotten opportunities to travel to new places and meet lots of great people.”
Christine Marisco ’13, who is currently teaching on a Taiwanese island, said in an emailed statement, “The experience has provided me with a new lens through which to examine and reflect upon both my experiences and the education system of another part of the world. I am called a teacher, but really, I feel more like a learner. I have learned tons not only about my own strengths and weaknesses, but also about intercultural communication and the politics of education. I have seen much of the educational theory we read about at Vassar in practice in my everyday life.” Marisco advises all Vassar graduates to travel wherever they can. “Go outside your comfort zone,” she suggests, “embarrass yourself, surprise yourself and scare yourself. If you are in a new country, you will be surrounded by newness everyday. Approach it and grow from it!”