Two ISU seniors have been awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship and will begin an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in another country following graduation.
Bilingual elementary education major Emily Szymczak will teach English in Mexico, while Hillary Veitch, a Spanish education major, will be teaching English in South Korea.
“This is a very prestigious award and very competitive. Large and small universities, private and public, across the country compete for spots to be a U.S. Student Fulbright Scholar,” Becky Mentzer, Fulbright program advisor, said.
The Fulbright program offers grants to recent graduates, graduate students and Ph.D. students. The most popular are the researchstudy grants and English Teaching Assistant grants; some other options include Fulbright-Clinton Fellowships for applicants who hope to work in foreign governments and Fulbright mtvU Awards for recent graduates whose research would focus on international musical culture.
Students must choose carefully, as each can only select one award in one country to apply for in any given year. Applicants must have completed at least a bachelor’s degree by the time they would either teach or research abroad.
Individual countries have their own criteria for applicants to review and each has a set number of awards they make.
For instance, Veitch was selected to be an ETA to South Korea. In this competition, 270 students applied for 80 ETA positions in that country, so only 30 percent received an award. Szymczak received an ETA to Mexico, which had 129 applications and made 20 awards, which means less than 17 percent received awards.
“I ended up deciding to apply for the English Teaching Assistantship because my minor is in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and I have been working with an adult ESL program at a local community college with students from all over the world. Getting to know about their lifestyles and cultures really inspired me to take this opportunity to experience another part of the world that isn’t quite as familiar to me,” Veitch said.
Veitch chose South Korea because one of her best friends is South Korean; while growing up and spending time with her friend’s family, Hillary gained an admiration for the Korean culture. She also does research with a faculty mentor who studies Korean English speakers.
“I was able to interview many Korean international students where I learned so much more about their education system, lifestyle and experiences in the United States. Through interviewing with them and interacting with my professor, I began to appreciate how sincere they are,” Veitch said.
Szymczak chose Mexico because, as a bilingual elementary education major, she hopes to teach students from Spanish-speaking countries including Mexico. During her application process, she had to take part in a 15-minute Skype interview with officials from the Fulbright program while speaking entirely in Spanish.
“It was hard to read the interviewers because they did not have their video feed on but I guess they thought I was a good candidate,” Szymczak said.
“I’m most looking forward to working with the students. From my time student teaching, I have learned how influential teachers are to students and vice versa. I’m excited to meet my students and learn their traditions and views of the United States.”
Following their time abroad, Szymczak plans to find a job teaching in a bilingual program in Chicago or the suburbs and Veitch hopes to attend graduate school.