Ten Tufts students awarded Fulbright scholarships

Will Freeman, a recipient of the Fulbright scholarship who is now working in Hungary, is pictured by the Danube River on Aug. 6, 2016. (Courtesy Will Freeman)

The Fulbright Program, an international exchange program for college graduates run by the federal government, has awarded scholarships to 10 Tufts students in the past year, according to Tufts Program Specialist for Scholar Development Anne Moore.

Out of the 60 total Tufts applicants, there were 22 finalists for the scholarship, and 15 students were offered Fulbright grants, but some had to decline or had their programs canceled, according to Moore. This year, Tufts was included in an annual list of top Fulbright-producing schools published by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“The percentage of students who win is usually somewhere between 15 and 20 percent the of students who apply,” Moore said. “Normally we have about 50 and last year we had 60 applicants, so that was a pretty big uptick.”

Moore emphasized that Tufts makes an effort to ensure that students applying for the Fulbright scholarship have access to a support system to help them craft their applications. In particular, at several points throughout the process, Moore and other staff members give feedback on applicants’ essays.

Moore said that the number of Fulbright applicants from Tufts each year has remained relatively stable, but that for this upcoming year, Tufts produced 28 national finalists out of a pool of 52 applicants. According to Moore, Tufts’ success in producing Fulbright award recipients is due in part to the applicant support system, in combination with the university’s academic offerings.

“I think the strong language requirements that we have as part of the overall prerequisites, the strength of the [International Relations] department, the strength of our study abroad programs, all of those things add to the opportunities that students have to do independent research, or to the public service commitments of Tufts,” Moore said.

Moore added that Tufts has a varied record with other scholarships, such as the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, and that the fluctuation in student success rates in these scholarship contests are not always within the university’s control.

“Our numbers go up and down, and a lot of that depends on factors that we totally can’t control: what’s the job market like, what is the general political climate like,” Moore said. “Some of those students might feel like the needs at home to actually go to law school … might be more pressing in the larger political climate.”

Moore emphasized that although the number of students receiving scholarship awards is one indicator of success, a more important metric is what students get out of the application process.

“If the only way I measured the success of this office was by who won, I think I would be doing our students a disservice,” Moore said. “What I can say for sure is that every student who applies for a nationally competitive award comes out of the experience with a clearer sense of the impact they want to make on the world.”

Fulbright scholarship recipient Will Freeman (LA’ 16) is based in Hungary, and explained the ways in which Tufts supported him throughout the application process. He said that Moore’s office gave him feedback on his application, and before he graduated, he was able to gain experience teaching abroad through the Anne E. Borghesani Memorial Prize.

Freeman also emphasized the flexible nature of Hungary’s Fulbright program. He is currently studying political theory, and he also teaches academic writing to non-native English speakers.

“While my official grant title is ‘English Teaching Assistant,’ I neither teach English nor am I an assistant!” Freeman told the Daily in an email.

According to Freeman, the most rewarding part of the experience so far has been forming relationships with professors and students with unique political perspectives.

“[I have had] the chance to study with professors who participated in the Hungarian transition to democracy and peers from countries with very different political systems than ours,” Freeman said.

Likewise, Fulbright scholarship recipient Joscelyn García (LA ’16) provided additional insight into the application process, along with her experience so far as an English teaching assistant in Zhiben, a village in Taitung County, Taiwan. García teaches students at an elementary school that incorporates a range of backgrounds and cultures.

“Most of my students are part of the Beinan Tribe, but I also have students who are Hakka, Taiwanese, have a foreign mother, are part of another tribe or are a mix of the previously listed,” García told the Daily in an email. “Even though Taitung County is the least resourced in Taiwan, I couldn’t be happier with my placement.”

García said that the most rewarding part of her experience so far has been forming personal connections with not only her students, but also other people from the village.

“It amazes me how people go out of their way to help you or don’t hesitate to invite you into their homes,” García told the Daily in an email. “I love my students! … Some come from difficult backgrounds, but their positive nature keeps them going and warmhearted. I’m proud to say I know all of my kids’ names and have a good relationship with many of them.”

García also discussed her experience with the application process leading up to her Fulbright grant. After deciding to apply at the end of her junior year, García at first considered a position in Ecuador, but eventually applied for a position in Taiwan.

García said that she appreciates the support she received from Tufts throughout the application process, and explained that along with the rest of the support system, she received essay advice from Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon and a graduate writing tutor.

“Anne Moore was an integral part of my application process … Dean McMahon and the writing tutor also gave me great advice,” García said. “Because of them, I turned in an application that I was extremely proud of.”

García emphasized the value of her Fulbright experience in Taiwan, and said that being abroad has given her freedom and new opportunities.

“Before, I would stress about whether or not to go straight to graduate school, but I’m so happy that I did not and instead I am growing and learning more about myself and the world outside of the elite academic bubble — I’m taking advantage of my life,” García said.

Clare Ladd (LA ’16), a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Berlin, Germany, explained that the program has given her a unique opportunity to work internationally.

“You bring the native speaker perspective, because a lot of times the teachers aren’t native speakers. It’s a cool international experience. You get to see what it’s like to work in a school, and you get to work with Germans,” Ladd said.

Ladd also gave details on her application process, and the ways in which she found Tufts to be helpful.

“[Tufts] provided support with writing the essays, because it’s a pretty demanding application,” she said. “Tufts was really helpful. They really want you to get the Fulbright, and they really want to get as many Fulbrighters as possible.”

Ladd said that her experience has been especially rewarding because of her location in Berlin and because the role of English teaching assistant allows for flexibility and creativity.

“I got really lucky because I got placed in Berlin, which is a pretty cool city. Once you’re an English teaching assistant, you’re not really a part of a university or anything,” she said. “It’s a very different experience, but I think it’s definitely worth doing for anybody that doesn’t know what they want to do after college.”

Alex Goodhouse (LA ’14), another Fulbright scholarship recipient, is also an English teaching assistant based in Campobasso in Southern Italy. Goodhouse teaches a total of 200 students in two high schools, and is the only American in the town, where most people do not speak English. According to Goodhouse, there are several differences between the American education systems he has been a part of and the school system in Campobasso, which has posed some challenges for him.

“My previous teaching experience is in a Montessori school and at art museums in Boston. In both of those environments, learning is self-directed and hands-on,” Goodhouse told the Daily in an email. “The system here is very different, and I have been trying to bring some of those ideas into the classroom.”

However, despite the challenges of adjusting to a new environment and educational system, Goodhouse emphasized the benefits of his experience as a Fulbright teaching assistant.

“Getting to know the students has been incredible and is by far the most rewarding part of my experience,” Goodhouse wrote. “One of the goals of the Fulbright program is to build relationships across cultures and, at least for me, that is where it has been the most successful.”