Students fortunate enough to be accepted into a Fulbright grant program have the chance to immerse themselves into another society and continue their learning. Two graduating seniors have been accepted into such programs. Wendy Bryant will head to Spain for a year and Emily Schifferer to Austria; both will teach English.
Bryant, from Eugene, Ore., earned bachelor’s degrees in both Spanish and social science before she embarks on this formative experience. She has high hopes for her year in Spain and hopes it will help her decide which direction to go for her career.
She came to WOU with plans to become an elementary education major, but through her time on campus, she learned that she wants to either teach social studies in a middle school with a large English language learning population, or go the educational policy route to target policy for language learners.
The Fulbright is something Bryant has been working toward throughout her time at WOU. She’s had a taste for travel for most of her life. “I got a taste for it and once you start travelling, you can’t stop,” she said. Bryant studied abroad in Argentina, visited Mexico many times, and had taken other trips to Guatemala. “I feel I’ve seen a good chunk of Latin America.” She’s never been to Spain and wants a new perspective on what Spanish can be like.
The Fulbright seemed like a great opportunity to learn more about the Spanish language while helping her decide the path she wants to take for her future. Her interest in language learners developed while working through the Upward Bound program on campus. She held the job for several years, but it was while working as a resident assistant for six weeks one summer that really made an impact. She lived among high school students during that time and a lot of them were Latinos and language learners. After that experience she studied abroad in Argentina. “I started making connections about what it is like to be a minority and a language learner in another society. That's when I began to truly realize the complexity of challenges ELLs face daily in the U.S.,” she said.
Those experiences inspired her thesis. She went to a local high school and interviewed six Latinos who are language learners. Bryant asked them about their academic experiences, social experiences and confidence level. This work inspired her even further to work with this population.
Like Bryant, Schifferer worked through her college career with the Fulbright as her dream. A German studies major, she has spent much of her time at WOU focused on the German language and culture. She studied abroad twice; in 2009 to Austria and in 2011 to Germany. “I loved immersing myself in the cultures and getting to know people from all over the world who had the same interests as me,” she said.
Schifferer wishes everyone would go abroad at least once in their lifetime. “I definitely recommend it because you not only learn more about another culture, but also a lot about your own culture. You also get to know yourself better,” she said. Her first trip to Europe was in eighth grade for a choir trip. When she goes to Austria in October, it will be her fifth visit to Europe.
With her Fulbright experience, Schifferer wants to gain teaching experience and strengthen the German she’s learned so far. She will assist in English language classes for two schools in Gänserndorf, a small town near Vienna. After her time in Austria concludes, she plans to either work toward becoming a professor of German language or explore career opportunities in the field of translation.
For the past two years, she worked as a German tutor on campus and was also involved in the German Club. She really enjoyed helping other students of German improve their language skills and watching them succeed in their studies. Her memories with the club are some of her fondest at WOU as the members were all friends. The events of Maifest, Oktoberfest and club dinners were among her favorites.
Both Schifferer and Bryant are sure to excel in their respective Fulbright programs and only time will tell how they will use their language and teaching skills in the future.
The 2013-14 Fulbright U.S. student competition will be accepting applications through Oct. 17, 2012. The program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or English teaching assistantships for students who are U.S. citizens. During their grants, Fulbrighters will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences.