Scripps, Meet the World. World, Meet Scripps.
Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations. (1983) — Senator J. William Fulbright
One of the most prestigious awards programs worldwide, and the largest exchange program for U.S. students, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program was a terrific match for 10 Scripps College graduates who were awarded competitive, merit-based scholarships for a range of intriguing international experiences.* This was a banner year for Scripps, with 16 students named as finalists. Consider that 43 Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes and 78 have won Pulitzer Prizes, and the magnitude of this honor becomes clear. Anna Fiastro, Alayna Fisher, Maya Higgins, Allison Kupsco, Melissa Munoz, Emilia Sawada, Katherine Sklar, Adelina Solis, and Kate Wiley join an august group as they set off for Vietnam, Malaysia, Mongolia, South Korea, Thailand, Brazil, Germany, and Slovenia.
Scripps’ success in securing Fulbright awards over the past three years has been outstanding. With 10 finalists in 2009, Scripps ranked eighth nationally among liberal arts colleges, and this year’s crop of 16 finalists will likely elevate Scripps even higher on that list. With broader support of the Fulbright program among faculty and staff across campus—including Off-Campus Study, Career Planning & Resources, and the Writing Program—Fulbright Program Advisor Thierry Boucquey has valuable assistance in guiding students through the application and interview process.
The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship. — Senator J. William Fulbright
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program includes an English Teaching Assistant component, and seven of the Scripps Fulbright recipients will be teaching English in foreign countries, including Adelina Solis ’11, who will be an English Teaching Assistant at a Vietnamese university. With a linguistics major and an Italian studies minor, Adelina has already experienced teaching English in a foreign country.
“I’m most excited about tackling the challenge of learning Vietnamese and finally developing the ability to eat spicy food,” she says. “From my experience teaching English in Italy, I realized that teaching in a foreign country requires not only teaching ability but also an understanding of cultural norms and how they translate into teaching/learning methods.”
Some 1,800 miles away, Allison Kupsco ’11 will be teaching English at a university in Mongolia, the most sparsely populated country in the world.
“I chose Mongolia because I was looking for a challenge,” Allison says. “I know that the language barrier will be difficult, but to be honest I’m much more concerned about the weather: Ulaanbaatar is the coldest capital city in the world, and I’m from Arizona, where the temperature never even drops below freezing.”
Also heading to Asia, Maya Higgins ’10 will be coming off of an amazing year of travel and study sponsored by a Watson Fellowship. After scuba diving in Micronesia, studying Spanish in Ecuador, and exploring the Galapagos Islands, Maya will relocate to Thailand to teach English and run sports camps at Princess Chulabhorn’s College in Chiang Rai, Thailand (in the mountains on the very northern border) “and, of course, try to cram as much Thai food into my stomach as possible!”
Accustomed to picking up and moving every few months during her Watson year, Maya is eager to live in one place for awhile and build solid relationships. She expects that learning Thai, a tonal language, will be one of her greatest challenges (“I can’t imagine that knowing French or Spanish will help me learn Thai”), but is looking forward to celebrating Thai New Year (Songkran festival) in April, when “I’ve heard that the whole country has a massive water fight for a few days … this sounds like it could be a highlight of the year!”
Having past teaching experience bolsters the confidence of Emilia (Emi) Sawada ’11 and Alayna Fischer ’11 as they embark on Fulbright teaching assistantships in South Korea and Germany, respectively. Although Emi speaks little Korean, she takes comfort in the parallels between her own Japanese culture and that of Korea, where she hopes to find “a more intimate connection [with the culture] through my home stay.” She also expects the year ahead to be a training ground for a possible future career in academia. Alayna, too, believes that her year in Germany will help her to decide whether teaching will be her chosen career path. As an English and German dual major, she felt that “teaching English in Germany seemed like a good use of my degree.”
Kate Wiley was less certain how her Fulbright award would benefit her future career in clinical neuropsychology and, in fact, was hesitant to turn down a psychological research job at Stanford and relocate to Malaysia to teach English. Happily, she was able to accept both offers, delving into research until January, when she will depart for a part of the world she has never seen.
“We get a travel stipend each month,” Kate says, “and they really encourage us to see the rest of Southeast Asia. I am excited to scuba dive on the coast of Malaysia and rock climb in Thailand.”
In terms of the work she will be doing, Kate expects to be conspicuous because of her skin color, but she is aware that cultural differences will be another—perhaps less visible—challenge.
“Since the areas I could be going to are predominantly Muslim, I think the cultural differences in gender norms will be hard to adjust to, but I will just try to be very conscious of my actions and dress to avoid being offensive.”
Melissa Munoz ’11, who also will be working with high school students in Malaysia, became interested in the Fulbright program after her close friend and CMS softball teammate Jessica Vaughn ’09 taught for a year in Sri Lanka as a Fulbright scholar.
“She described her time abroad as a wonderful and enriching experience and encouraged me to apply,” says Melissa. “I’m excited about the opportunity to live, work, and be amongst a truly diverse population. Malaysia is a multi-racial country, with many immigrants from India, China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Japan, and Thailand. I look forward to one-on-one interactions, sharing thoughts, ideas, and beliefs in hopes of gaining a better understanding of why we think the way we do.”
The remaining Scripps Fulbright recipients will be conducting research abroad. Anna Fiastro ’11 will be working with a professor in Mossoró, Brazil on her research on integrated agro-aquaculture systems, with an eye toward making fish farming more sustainable while growing other food crops. Anna performed similar research on aquaculture projects at the University of Arizona last summer and, prior to leaving for Brazil, will spend some time in Trinidad, working on The Guppy Project, a study looking at the relationship between ecology and evolution.
Katherine (Kaye) Sklar ’11 will also be picking up the threads of work she already began when she spent last summer in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, where she interned with the Department of State at the U.S. Embassy. Calling Slovenia “one of the hidden gems of Europe,” Kaye feels that her project, an examination of the construction of the independent democratic government of Slovenia after its secession from Communist Yugoslavia in 1991, couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
“Understanding the process of democratization has become highly relevant with the uprisings in the Middle East,” Kaye says, “although I had no idea when I was composing my proposal last August that my project would be so timely!”
“Slovenia had remarkable success in this transition,” she continues, “and, given that it has been twenty years since Slovenia’s secession, now is a good point for reflection into this process. To this end, I will be interviewing the writers of the constitution and first legislators in the government, and ask them to assess what turned out well and what did not.”
Whether teaching English and engaging in cultural exchanges or pursuing site-specific research, these nine Scripps graduates are certain to have unforgettable experiences that just might boost the global quotient of peace and friendship.
*While 10 Scripps students were awarded Fulbright Awards, one student declined her award because she chose to accept a competitive job offer.
Founded through the introduction of legislation by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright Program was established to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. It is now active in over 155 countries. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers fellowships for U.S. graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals, and artists to study abroad for one academic year.