Wesleyan continues Fulbright success
Whether exploring the inner workings of the European Union or helping Zambian students learn English while standing up for themselves, Wesleyan recipients of the Fulbright US Student Program will serve the Fulbright Mission of Citizen Diplomacy to citizenship and will learn about themselves in the process. .
“I’ve spoken to other Fulbrights (recipients) and they said that when they left the program, they knew exactly what they wanted to do and they had a completely different perspective on their own situation…This program will be amazing as it will teach me all aspects of education perspective,” said Alphina Kamara ’22 who will be teaching English in Zambia.
Kamara, along with Andrew Finkelman ’23 (Spain), Justin Kim ’19 (South Korea), Anna Marti ’23 (Greece) and Alexandra (Lexie) Prendergast ’20 (Belgium), is part of the current Fulbright group of university. beneficiaries, who will travel abroad during the 2022-2023 academic year.
The American Fulbright Student Program is the largest US exchange program offering students and young professionals opportunities to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, creative work, and English language teaching around the world. Wesleyan is regularly represented among the group of Fulbright scholars and often named as Fulbright Top Producing Institution. From 2018 to 2022, the University has produced a total of 30 Fulbrighters.
Applications are organized through the Scholarship Office, which is part of the Fries Center for Global Study, and students work on Fulbright applications in the spring and summer to meet fall deadlines. Seniors and alumni are eligible to apply and can contact the Scholarships Office for assistance.
“The Fulbright program is all about academic excellence and students who have their own independent thought and intellectual journey. But on the other hand, they are also very interested in the mission of connecting people across cultures and across nations… They are interested in how people think and how their work can contribute to the world. There’s a lot of that energy at Wesleyan,” said Erica Kowsz, associate director of fellowships at the Fries Center for Global Studies.
Several factors make Wesleyan students particularly suited to the program, said Kowsz, who took a Fulbright in Canada during his own college career. Wesleyan students are used to forging their own path on campus, which gives them a head start in applying for a Fulbright. All awards require a student to bring their own solid reasons why they will be applying for an award in a particular country and how they will achieve their goals once they arrive.
“Fulbright is interested in Wesleyan’s commitment to thinking about how what happens in an academic setting interacts with the real world and how that can be mobilized in positive ways,” Kowsz said.
Wesleyan’s extensive language programs also play an important role in student success with certain Fulbright awards. “Some countries require a certain level in the local language and almost all consider the experience of learning another language as important preparation for a Fulbright year. Because Wesleyan invests in foreign language learning, as well as training in teaching English as a second language, our students are well prepared to apply for a Fulbright award compared to those at many other campuses,” Kowsz said.
One of the common misconceptions that many students have about applying for a Fulbright is that they need previous international experience to have a chance at the prestigious program. That’s not necessarily true, Kowsz said. “If someone has done a lot of work in the local community and on campus, the Fulbright program will see that another experience gives them the skills that can be applied in a new setting,” she said.
The idea of combining personal passions and the ability to learn about the world with the ability to do good was appealing to this group of students and recent graduates.
Anna Marti ’23, a double major in American Studies and Education Studies, didn’t even know about the program last summer. The scholarship office contacted her senior year of college to assess her interest. After investigating the program in Greece – she believes Athens College, her home for the next 10 months, has a similar sense of community pride to Wesleyan – Marti decided to apply. “It seemed like the perfect blend of the two main interests that coalesced throughout my time at Wesleyan,” Marti said.
Marti got a job as an English teaching assistant and was assigned to the college’s applications and counseling office. “We live in a globally connected world,” she said. “I’ve worked a lot on education systems overseas and tried to figure out how to reform the system that we have,” Marti said.
Alphina Kamara ’22, a sociology and English major, wanted to take a year off before entering law or graduate school to focus her interests and eventually chart a course for herself. Her work in Zambia as an English teaching assistant provides her with classroom experience to accompany her already well-developed interest in education advocacy – an opportunity to step out of her comfort zone, she said. “I’m really excited to get involved in the community. I want to talk to a lot of locals to see what’s going on. I don’t want to get into the perspective of projecting what I think are the issues, but understanding from the perspective of the locals how I could get involved,” Kamara said.
Prendergast ’20, a government and College of Social Studies major, has spent the past two years working at a law firm in Boston. Her semester abroad in Paris whetted her appetite for overseas work and her post-graduate career spurred her interest in international law. Her Fulbright in Brussels will provide an immersive experience as an English teaching assistant.
She attributes her time at Wesleyan to giving her the tools to succeed in this important position. “I think my upbringing encouraged me to think outside the box, ask lots of questions and be receptive to new ideas. Wesleyan has challenged my day-to-day outlook on things and I think that’s something that’s going to be very valuable,” Prendergast said.
Wesleyan University 2022-23 Fulbright Recipients
Andrew Finkelman, 23, a double major in sociology and Hispanic literatures and cultures, will travel to Spain to serve as an English teaching assistant in Galicia, an autonomous region in the far northwest of Spain. . Spain hosts one of the largest Fulbright ETA programs, attracting more applicants than any other Fulbright award. With over 800 applications to this program over the past two consecutive cycles, Finkelman’s success in earning a place in this particular program is particularly noteworthy.
Alphina Kamara, 22, a student of English and sociology, received an English teaching assistant award for Zambia. Kamara has been an activist on issues of equity and quality in education from a young age, advocating for herself and other students who experience discrimination and/or neglect in school. She sees herself as offering her students a chance to gain agency and see themselves as part of a world beyond their village, town or country. She views her family connection to West Africa (Sierra Leone and Senegal) as important preparation for the environment in which she will teach and represent the United States.
Justin Kim, 19, is a great example of a recent alum who has found success using scholarships as a way to pursue original projects in his chosen field. For Kim, that domain is cinema. In 2019, Kim left for her Watson Fellowship the summer after graduating from Wesleyan majoring in American Studies and Film. In 2022-2023, he will again go abroad as a scholar, this time as a Fulbright Scholar in Film at the Korean National University of the Arts in South Korea. Kim will both complete a research project on the history of South Korean cinema and progress into an original docuseries. He has also been named a Mortimer Hayes-Brandeis Fellow for 2022-2023, a wonderful recognition of the artistic merit of his work and a welcome addition to the support available for his proposed project.
Anna Marti, 23, a double major in American Studies and Educational Studies, received a position as an English teaching assistant from the Hellenic American Educational Foundation at Athens College (HAEF ) in Greece. Marti will be assigned to the school’s application and academic advising office, where she will build on her work at the Wesleyan Admissions Office, where she most recently worked as a senior interviewer. Even before she knew if she would get the Fulbright, Marti threw herself into preparing for the experience by enrolling in Modern Greek classes in her senior year. The preparation will serve her well when she brings the fundamentals of this less commonly taught language with her into her Fulbright year.
Alexandra (Lexie) Prendergast, 20, a graduate of the College of Social and Government Studies, has been given a position as a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Belgium. Prendergast will draw on his fluency in the French language and extensive teaching and mentoring experience in his work with Belgian students. From her academic background, she also brings with her an interest in Belgium’s role in the European Union, including roles such as hosting the plenary sessions of the European Parliament.