Megan Henning, Elisabeth Rusch, Noah Turecek and Carissa Zibolsky have received Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships and will teach abroad during the spring 2021 semester, along with Nicole Gottfredsen who was awarded a Fulbright study/research grant. The Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries.
Cheryl Lochner-Wright is a study abroad coordinator in UW-Eau Claire’s Center for International Education and the campus advisor for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. She is pleased to announce these five recipients while acknowledging the challenges facing international travel and education during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
"This has been a tumultuous year for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, as it has been for everything related to international education," Lochner-Wright said. "Our 2019-20 Fulbrighters were all called home in March — a huge disappointment, especially for those whose grant years had just started in January or February. Now the excitement for the 2020-21 cohort has been tempered by the recent State Department announcement that no 2020-21 grants will begin before January 2021. In the midst of all of this, I’d like to celebrate each of the UW-Eau Claire recipients and to recognize the tremendous amount of work and planning they put into applying for a Fulbright and arranging/rearranging future plans in order to take up an award."
This year’s UW-Eau Claire Fulbright honorees are among a total of 30 graduates of the university who received Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards over the past 11 years. That is more than double the number from any other master's-level public university in Wisconsin or Minnesota.
More about UW-Eau Claire's 2020-21 Fulbright recipients
Nicole Gottfredsen, a 2018 psychology and German language graduate from De Pere, has earned a Fulbright grant to study and conduct research at the Phillips Universität in Marburg, Germany. Gottfredsen, who also will be enrolled in a master's program in child psychology, will be working with refugee children in Germany.
"I will be completing my research under the supervision of two professors who specialize in child and adolescent psychology," Gottfredsen said. "Through this research, I hope to facilitate the improvement of the children’s German reading skills and support them through this transitional period of their lives."
Since her 2018 graduation, Gottfredsen has worked at Family Services of Northeastern Wisconsin as a youth development specialist. In that role, she supervises, teaches and supports adolescents at a residential facility.
Gottfredsen's return to Marburg is something she has hoped to do since completing a study abroad semester there in 2017.
"I look forward to returning to Marburg and once again getting accustomed to living there. I’m interested to see what has changed in the past three years," she said. "It will be fun to go back to some of my favorite places like the Lahntreppen and Süleyman Usta and discover new ones, too."
She also looks forward to the cultural exchange that the Fulbright Program promotes.
"While I attend Philipps Universität, I expect to have conversations with my peers and professors about our culturally influenced viewpoints regarding child and adolescent development and compare our knowledge on topics ranging from politics to language. However, these moments are best left unplanned, and I’d like to participate in various local engagements while simply sharing my perspectives along the way."
Megan Henning, a May 2020 graduate in broadfield social studies education and history major from Germantown, has been awarded a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in the Czech Republic, set to begin in spring 2021. Henning completed the Central European Travel Seminar immersion program and looks forward to spending more time in Prague, the capital city she visited only briefly during her past travels.
"I had only a few days to experience its capital, Prague, but fell in love with the atmosphere and the people," Henning said. "Besides the excitement of returning, I look forward to learning more about the country's culture and its people's history, especially because of my love for history. Also, I am curious to experience the way they run their education system and see what I can learn from them and their teaching methods."
Henning is a secondary education major, and will be licensed to teach middle and high school. The structure of the Czech education system has a slightly different progression, a variation she feels will nicely supplement the spectrum of grade levels and methodology she is familiar with.
"At this point I do not know which city or type of school I will be assigned to," she said. "I do know that I will be working with students somewhere in the age range of middle school to college level, the same age group of students that I would in my career. However, the Czech school system is career-focused earlier on, with more specialty education similar to our charter schools. I am hoping to learn from their system and use what I learn to improve upon my teaching."
Fulbright students enjoy the unique opportunity to represent the U.S. as part of the Fulbright mission to promote global education, a role Henning fully embraces. The Fulbright Student Program facilitates this in many ways, including providing teaching assistant access to a network of over 430 international student advising centers in 178 countries and territories. The network, known as EducationUSA Advising Centers, was established by the U.S. Department of State.
"I am looking forward to sharing the EducationUSA Advising Center with my students so they can see the many opportunities to study abroad in the U.S.," Henning said. "In this way, they are not just hearing from me about our culture, and are encouraged to study abroad and experience the U.S. for themselves."
Elisabeth Rusch, a May 2020 graduate in public relations and global studies from West Bend, will depart in January for a teaching assistant position in South Korea.
After having completed her study abroad experience in Ghana, West Africa, Rusch was invited by the Center for International Education to attend an informational meeting about the Fulbright Program.
"I left that info session and thought to myself, ‘why not just apply and see what happens?’ I love to travel and experience new cultures, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity," Rusch said.
Although she does not yet know the exact school where her placement will occur, Rusch does know that she will work with elementary school children, a prospect that she is very happy about.
"I love kids — I came into UWEC as an elementary education major. While I did end up switching majors, I am greatly looking forward to having this experience as a teacher."
In terms of the cultural aspects of the Fulbright experience, Rusch most looks forward to spending this time in a home with a host family.
"I think it will be a great way to learn the language and really be immersed in the culture. I’ve never been to Asia, so I am excited for the opportunity to experience that part of the world," she said, adding the hope that she will have the opportunity to incorporate her love of cooking into the cultural exchange.
"I love cooking and am hoping to share that love with my host family and maybe even the schoolchildren."
Noah Turecek of McFarland will earn his degrees in international business and information systems, along with certificates in transnational Asian studies and Chinese language. Next spring, he will embark on his Fulbright teaching assistantship in Taiwan, and is greatly looking forward to a return to Asia.
"As someone whose life has been truly changed by the study of a foreign language, I'm most excited to help my students acquire language and cultural literacy skills that can improve the quality of their education and shape their futures," Turecek said.
Turecek, who studied abroad in China, learned about the Fulbright Program opportunities through his contacts in the Center for International Education and is very happy that he decided to apply. He says he was most motivated to do so by his interests in both language and teaching, after having served as a peer tutor for fellow information systems students as well as international students.
"Although we have not received our placements yet, I'm hoping to be in New Taipei City or one of the larger cities so I can be exposed to as many different walks of life as possible," Turecek said. "As far as the age group, I'm interested in teaching in a high school setting so that I can contribute inside the classroom as well as outside as an assistant coach for a sports team. I'm most looking forward to fully embracing my role as a cultural ambassador and having a positive impact on my students' education."
Regarding the role of cultural ambassador, Turecek fully appreciates the need for positive global relationship building and takes this responsibility seriously.
"I hope to challenge any preconceived notions of Americans and be a role model to my students by instilling in them the same hard-working and positive attitude that Midwestern Americans are known for."
Carissa Zibolsky, a May graduate from Rosendale, is a double major in special education and Spanish and has been awarded a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Panama for next spring.
Zibolsky studied abroad in Chile in 2018 and took part in the summer 2019 Scotland immersion with the special education program. She chose to apply for the Fulbright Program in the hopes of gaining another amazing global experience prior to joining the workforce as a full-time teacher.
"After researching various options, I decided on Fulbright," Zibolsky said. "I liked the idea of being able to apply my degrees to the English teaching assistantship and being able to choose a Spanish-speaking country to live in. I chose Panama for various reasons. Panama offers one of the longer programs, but it also allows me the opportunity to complete an extra project while I'm there. I have proposed an after-school program for students with and without disabilities to come and play sports together, which I am very excited about."
Zibolsky is also looking forward to studying the differences between the system of education versus that of the U.S. and the extended opportunity to improve her Spanish language skills.
"When I studied abroad in Chile, I felt like I made huge improvements in my Spanish, and I'm excited to see more improvements in my language skills while in Panama."
Top photo caption: Noah Turecek studied Chinese language and spent a semester studying in Chengdu, China, in the summer of 2018.