by ALEXA SCHMIDT, Features Editor
Out of eight applicants, seniors Natalia Alvarez, Alia Flanigan and Emily Hay received the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. They will start the program in the 2020 year.
An international studies major and peace and justice studies minor, Alvarez actually heard about the program through a friend who was also applying to the scholarship. Meanwhile, Brother Dan aided Flanigan, an international studies with double minor in french and women and gender studies, and Hay, a secondary education with concentration in english and special education, in their decision to apply.
“I thought it would be really cool because it’s mostly about creating relationships with different countries, which is what I want to do. If you get a Fulbright in my field, then you’re golden,” Flanigan said.
“I’m all about international education, so part of me knew in advance that I was looking to teach abroad. I just didn’t know how, or where, or what capacity I was going to do that,” Hay added.
Alvarez describes the program as a, “U.S. government program funded by congress where they promote interconnectedness within cultures and other countries by sending American students to countries where you either do research on a certain topic, or you an English teaching assistant at either an elementary, middle or high school, or at a university level.”
For ten months, Alvarez, Flanigan and Hay will all serve as English teaching assistants in their assigned countries. Alvarez is stationed in Brazil, and Flanigan and Hay will both be in Malaysia.
“All three of us are ETAs, so that will be basically conducting english language programs at different schools. Each one of us will be put to a different school and it’s a very versatile position because it’s not just helping as an English teaching assistant, it’s also working with civil engagement programs, working with students as counselors, I’m pretty sure we help facilitate theater programs, sports programs, basically just being involved in the entire school environment and the community and students,” Hay said.
Each of the women can recall exactly when and where they were when they received the news.
“I was actually home in Puerto Rico, so there couldn’t have been a more perfect timing,” Alvarez said. “I went home to surprise my mom, because we had a family activity, and I got the email. It went to my junk mail, and I saw the Fulbright heading, and I paused for a second. And I started crying and my mom asked what was wrong, and I told her I got the scholarship. I was getting nervous that I hadn’t gotten mine, but every country is different. I just cried. And I called and texted all the people that were waiting to see what happened.”
“I was about to take a nap from practice, and I knew it was going to be around March twentieth or so, during spring break,” Flanigan said. “They sent it the twenty-third I think. I got the email, and I immediately called my dad and my sister. And then I called my mom, and then she started crying, so then I started crying, and the whole day was so nice. It hasn’t really set in yet that I have it, especially because you need a medical clearance, and all these clearances, so in my head I’m thinking, ‘oh my god, am I going to do something wrong?’ but it’s slowly hitting in, especially with the whole school knowing now.”
“When I found out, I’m still in disbelief, it’s very surreal. It was kind of just something I applied for thinking that there was a slim chance, and then ended up getting it, which proved to be more than a slim chance,” Hay said.
In addition to working in the school 20 hours a week, each scholar must have a project that fosters a community with the students they are working with.
For Alvarez, that will be encouraging women to understand feminism and to become empowered through community service, especially because sexism is so prevalent in Brazil.
“I’m going to make a softball/baseball league. I’m kind of using my division 1 athlete roots to make a league, and teach the Malaysian students how to play in English. That way, they can practice their English in a safe environment outside the classroom,” Flanigan said.
There is preparation before their departure. There’s pre-orientation, assignments that they have to do online, that’s like a virtual orientation, the actual orientation in their assigned country. Within the first two weeks while they’re there for orientation, they find out where they will specifically be placed.
“It’s very precarious but that’s part of the in the application. They want to know that you’re someone who’s able to adjust and adapt in these kind of situations,” Hay said.
“It’s cool that this is the first time that three MC students have gotten this award, especially three female students. I encourage students to apply. It’s a really good program, it’s really prestigious. If you don’t know what you’re doing, because I didn’t know what I was doing after graduation, it’s a good plan. It’s something that will give you opportunities to immerse yourself in other cultures and become a more globalized citizen which is so important today,” Alvarez said.