Experiences with new languages and cultures during their studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have helped lead to Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards for three of the university’s recent graduates. Two additional graduates have been named English teaching assistantship alternates.
Ellen Bialka, Amy Brown and Stephanie Kuski will teach abroad during the 2018-19 academic year after receiving Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships. The Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Samantha Dulak, a 2016 Spanish and Latin American studies graduate from Rothschild, and Rebecca Syverson, a May 2018 Spanish education graduate from Eau Claire, were selected as alternates for Fulbright Teaching Assistantships in Mexico and Argentina, respectively. Alternates can receive Fulbright Teaching Assistantships if additional funding becomes available.
“To have five students advance this far in the Fulbright process is very exciting,” said Cheryl Lochner-Wright, a study abroad coordinator in UW-Eau Claire’s Center for International Education and the campus advisor for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. “Unique this year is that two of them, Ellen and Stephanie, did not go abroad during their undergraduate careers, showing that UW-Eau Claire is succeeding at introducing students to global perspectives right here on campus.”
Bialka, Brown and Kuski are among 18 UW-Eau Claire graduates to receive Fulbright U.S. Student awards over the past 10 years.
Bialka, a 2017 UW-Eau Claire elementary education graduate from Cottage Grove, Minnesota, will teach English to high school students in the Czech Republic.
In addition to her teaching major, Bialka pursued a minor at UW-Eau Claire in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and as a student she worked as a peer guide to dozens of international students through the university’s Center for International Education. Her TESOL minor and experience as a peer guide inspired in her a dream to teach English abroad, Bialka said.
The Czech Republic was Bialka’s location of choice for a Fulbright assistantship because of her family’s ancestral ties to that country.
“I will be living in the same country and immersed in the same cultures that have influenced my family’s traditions for generations,” Bialka said.
Bialka plans to pursue a career teaching English as a second language, and she looks forward to gaining knowledge about the Czech educational system and teaching pedagogies that will be helpful in that work. She also hopes to both gain new insights while being immersed in the Czech culture and share aspects of U.S. culture with people in her host country.
“I hope that this international experience will introduce me to new and unique ideas, customs, and viewpoints,” Bialka said. “As a cultural ambassador, I am also excited to share about the diversity we have in the U.S, such as the unique ethnicities, languages, religions, traditions and more that we celebrate.”
Brown, a 2016 UW-Eau Claire elementary education graduate from New Hope, Minnesota, will teach English to university students in Colombia.
For Brown, a student teaching experience in Costa Rica while pursuing her UW-Eau Claire degree and an internship for two summers with Latin America News Digest influenced her decision to apply for the Fulbright program. Through her work with Latin America News Digest, which aims to expand the reach of news coverage produced by Latin American news media, Brown learned about a program called Colombia Bilingüe.
“Colombia Bilingüe is a countrywide initiative to increase English proficiency in students by graduation,” Brown said. “This was my main reason for choosing Colombia, since I wanted to be a part of the Colombia Bilingüe program.”
Brown is considering additional education to teach English as a second language to older students. The Fulbright Teaching Assistantship at the university level will give her a sense of her aptitude for working with older students, she said.
During her time in Colombia, Brown said she hopes to break down generalizations and misconceptions held by Americans and Colombians about each other.
“I think it’s safe to say that there are plenty of stereotypes about Americans just as there are stereotypes about Colombians,” Brown said. “I hope to challenge some of those stereotypes through classroom activities and discussions.”
Kuski, a 2018 UW-Eau Claire communication studies graduate from Rhinelander, will teach English to middle-school-age students in Berlin, Germany.
She chose Germany as her assistantship location for several reasons, including the country’s natural beauty and her knowledge of the language gained from completing a German minor at UW-Eau Claire.
“However, I also believe Germany is a country that has encountered unspeakable tragedies in its past but has moved forward to build its future on reform and transparency, and this is something I think we should take note of here in the U.S.,” Kuski said.
Kuski, said she hopes to gain both a better cultural understanding of Germany and improve her German speaking skills while living there for her teaching assistantship.
“The influx of refugees combined with Germany’s already diverse population provides ample opportunity to meet people different from myself and to understand their worlds, in order to gain intercultural insight and to bring those ideas back to the States,” Kuski said. “At the same time, I hope to gain experience with the German language so that I can pursue my master’s degree in communication at a German university after my assistantship.”
As a Fulbright Program participant, Kuski also looks forward to her role as a cultural ambassador for the U.S.
“My experiences of living here in the U.S. differ greatly from those of other people living here,” Kuski said. “For this reason, I hope to be honest and transparent about U.S. culture, sharing both my personal experiences but also generalizing to the larger population.”
Top photo caption: Amy Brown (center front), a 2016 UW-Eau Claire elementary education graduate, is pictured with her class during a student teaching experience in Costa Rica as an undergraduate. Brown is one of three UW-Eau Claire alumnae awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships for 2018-19.