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Students to Engage Around the World through Fulbright Grants
Zainab Abdali has worked with Syracuse’s refugee community during her four years at Syracuse. Her experience tutoring and talking to Somali high school students who grew up in refugee camps in Kenya motivated her to apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program English Teaching Assistantship in Kenya.
Abdali, a senior majoring in English and textual studies and in mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, is one of several Syracuse University students and alumni that Fulbright has awarded the opportunity to explore their research and teaching interests around the world for the 2018-19 academic year.
Six students and three alumnae were selected to participate in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program. Two students have received study/research grants. The research grants and ETAs are awarded through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
While Abdali will be teaching English in Kenya, she knows she will also learn a lot from her students. “Kenya is an ethnically and religiously diverse country, and as someone who is interested in literature and race, I think it will be a fascinating place to learn from,” she says.
“If there’s one thing that teaching in Syracuse has taught me, it’s that your students often have more of an impact on you than you have on them,” she says. “I want to go to Kenya with the understanding that I can contribute what I have and use my experience as a tutor to teach effectively and to help my students love English and English literature as much as I do, but that ultimately I will probably receive a lot more than I can give, and learn a lot more than I will teach.”
Abdali says she hopes to learn Swahili, or the regional language where she is placed; study how ethnicity and religion shapes identity in the Kenyan context; and be exposed to Kenyan literature. After her Fulbright year, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in English literature with a focus on postcolonial and race studies. “I think this experience will directly influence the kind of literature I read and write about in the future,” she says.
Luke Chadwick, a senior majoring in economics and international relations in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, was awarded an English Teaching Assistantship in Germany. He previously studied abroad in Germany in 2012-13 through the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX). At Syracuse, he focused on Latin America in his international relations studies and studied abroad in Madrid in summer 2015 and Santiago in spring 2016.
Chadwick says he applied to the ETA program in Germany for many reasons. “Of the places I have studied, it is certainly the one I miss the most, and I really wanted the opportunity to work intensively on my German again,” he says. “Most importantly, Germany has seen a lot of change since I was last there. The refugee crisis has changed the demographics in many German cities and has contributed to the rise of the far-right AfD (Alternatives for Germany) party.”
Of the 150 ETAs to Germany, Chadwick received one of the 20 “diversity placements” to a city with a high proportion of foreign or diverse students. “I applied for a diversity placement because I had not experienced a very multicultural Germany when I last studied abroad,” he says. “I want to learn about the refugee crisis in Germany and the effects that it has had on the society.”
Chadwick will be teaching English and about U.S. culture. “I want to focus on showing my students a positive image of the United States. I believe that there is a lot to be optimistic about in the U.S. in spite of what Germans might be reading about our federal government,” he says. Chadwick believes Syracuse serves as a great example of a sanctuary city where diversity is celebrated. “My experiences tutoring refugees here have prepared me to share this kind of narrative of the United States,” he says.
Lucile Pritchard Matthews ’13, recruitment specialist at Syracuse Abroad, studied English and textual studies and French and Francophone studies and minored in African American studies as an undergraduate. She says Senegalese people and culture have been a big part of her family, but she has never been able to travel there. Now she will, as the recipient of a Fulbright ETA in Senegal.
“I did not get a chance to study abroad in Senegal as an undergraduate, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise,” she says. “It motivated me to apply for the Fulbright ETA opportunity, where I could focus on engaging with the community through language and culture.”
Matthews is particularly looking forward to working with young female scholars in Dakar, the nation’s capital. “Senegal is working on addressing the gaps in women’s education, and I hope to be a part of that mission,” she says.
She is eager to expand her international experiences, which have mainly been Eurocentric. She went abroad with Paris Noir in summer 2011, did an academic year in the Syracuse Strasbourg program and studied abroad in summer 2012 through the Syracuse London program. “I hope to develop more of a pan-African perspective on international education and exchange, and apply that to my work with students considering different study abroad opportunities, as well as in my post-graduate studies in cultural foundations of education,” Matthews says.
The following students were also selected for Fulbright awards:
- Alumna Alexandra Gwynn ’12 (S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications), English Teaching Assistantship, Indonesia;
- Patricia Jancova, a graduate student majoring in music in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, English Teaching Assistantship, Slovak Republic;
- Deepali Kulkarni, a graduate student studying religion in the College of Arts and Sciences, Research, India;
- Lynjen Lu, a senior majoring in biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, English Teaching Assistantship, Malaysia;
- Chizobam Nwagwu, a senior majoring in neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences and policy studies in A&S and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, Research, Nigeria;
- Angie Pati, a senior majoring in psychology and neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences, English Teaching Assistantship, South Africa; and
- Sara Schleicher, a senior majoring in political science in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School, English Teaching Assistantship, Malaysia.
Alumna Iris Crawford ’17 (College of Arts and Sciences/Maxwell School) was selected as an alternate for an English Teaching Assistantship in South Africa.
The Fulbright program allows university graduates to immerse themselves in culture and language in a foreign country teaching English or engaging in a research or study program.
“Both the U.S. and their host societies gain through increased communication and understanding,” says Ford Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies and Professor of Anthropology Susan Wadley, campus Fulbright program advisor. “This year’s SU Fulbright awardees were exceptionally qualified as strong students and researchers, but most of all through their engagement in community activism while at SU. Their experiences, often with Syracuse’s refugee communities or local schools, were evidence of their commitment to language and education.”
The application process itself is a valuable experience for students, who can seek assistance through the University’s Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA).
“Fulbright applicants need to articulate compelling plans for cultural engagement in another country. That work can be very clarifying,” says Jolynn Parker, director of the CFSA and a campus Fulbright program advisor. “For students interested in international engagement, Fulbright is an unmatched opportunity for a year of support to live and learn abroad. The program’s goal of ‘promoting mutual understanding’ between the United States and other countries feels particularly important at this historical moment.”
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which is the largest U.S. exchange program with 1,900 grants awarded annually, allows students to engage in international study, research and teaching opportunities as part of U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright’s vision in 1945 for the “promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science.”
“Students who receive a Fulbright award work, live and learn from the people of their host country during the period of their grants, whether they are teaching English abroad or conducting research,” Parker says. “Returning Fulbrighters always express their gratitude for the incredible privilege of this experience, and their sense of both intellectual and personal growth.”
Students interested in applying to the Fulbright program should contact the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising at 315.443.2759 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The campus deadline for the 2018-19 application cycle is Sept. 13, 2018.