The senior scramble to find postgraduate employment can be cumbersome, but four Elon seniors had clear missions — a strong desire to continue their time abroad by teaching. For these students, their separate searches ended in one place: The Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Kelly Richard, Hannah Wilpon and Jacqueline Spencer all knew they loved to teach, as they devoted their collegiate education to study the craft. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching grants all over the world for recent college graduates and graduate students. Steven Armendariz, a political science and international and global studies major shared the others’ experience of clarity when it came to deciding on Fulbright because they all had a vested interest in traveling, too.
“When I was 16, I studied abroad in Spain for a year,” Spencer said. “I grew up a military child so I always loved to travel … I always wanted to go back [to Spain] but never had the opportunity. I knew I wanted to teach English after graduation, so I started looking in to different ways to go back to Spain. The Fulbright program really spoke to me.”
For Richard, it was her two Elon abroad programs — London and Hyderabad, India — that ignited her passion for international education. She saw that Elon opened a lot of doors for her and sees Fulbright as a great next step.
“Elon has a culture of collaboration and ambition and I have not once been told ‘no’ when I asked if I could do something,” Richard said. “When I wanted to intern in India, I found support. As long as I put the work in, I have found that any door will be opened for me.”
The Fulbright fellowship allows students to pursue multiple interests through their work. Armendariz, given his political and global education studies, saw Fulbright as the perfect chance to explore his multiple passions. If all goes as planned, Armendariz will be packing his bags and heading to Spain.
“I specifically chose to apply for Spain because I wanted to be in a Spanish-speaking country, but also learn more about the European economy and the affect Brexit will have on Spain first-hand,” Armendariz said.
Armendariz says his time at Elon has helped him discover his passions and the routes he can take to pursue them.
“Through my extracurricular and program experiences at Elon, I realized that I want to do more than follow one straight path,” Armendariz said. “I want to partake in various work experiences postgraduate to be able to develop myself and my skills.”
Sarah Lentz, associate director of national and international fellowships, has worked with the Elon students pursuing Fulbright to ensure they have the best chance of being accepted. Elon has been continually praised for global education, and Lentz sees Fulbright as a great fit for Elon students.
“It’s an experience that students really design themselves, and therefore they’re committed to it,” Lentz said. “They’re passionate about it, and they’re getting the funding to go out and do it, which is remarkable … Fulbright wants their students to demonstrate that they can dive right into their grant period, that they can assimilate and integrate into an unfamiliar culture and adapt accordingly … so they’re looking for students who can handle that type of cross-cultural experience.”
For Wilpon, being flexible has proven key to her pursuits. She was selected as an alternate, so is only eligible for Fulbright if someone else chooses not to accept. Like many students, Wilpon is waiting to hear back from the program, so she is keeping her options open.
“If I am not offered the Fulbright, I have been offered a grant to teach ESL [English as a second language] in Israel for the next academic year,” Wilpon said, noting that while this wasn’t the outcome she was hoping for, she remains excited to work in an international environment before settling down as a classroom teacher in the United States.
“Regardless of which opportunity I participate in ... I plan on teaching in a school that focuses on serving immigrant students with a limited English proficiency, thus using the skills I have obtained abroad, my higher education degree while teaching social studies.”