Two students, Angela Jirik and Mackenzie Dalton, were named Fulbright Scholars and received awards in the form of travel grants to teach English abroad.
The Fulbright Program, founded in 1946, seeks to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” according to their website.
With its extensive application process and selective nature, awards from the program are something that required from these students years of work, dedication and mentoring to achieve.
For this program specifically, students are required to hold a Bachelor’s degree and be proficient in the language they plan to teach in their host country.
The two students, after having gained their TESOL certification, gained an advantage as candidates for the award.
Jirik, a senior Spanish education major from Keller, is teaching English in Columbia and said she is excited to see what Columbia has in store.
“I’m going to be in Monteria as an English teaching assistant at a university there,” Jirik said. “I don’t know their language level, I don’t know what it will look like, but I’ll be teaching them English and teaching them about American culture.”
For Jirik, the application process was something of a culmination of her entire college career – not one essay or one project, but four years of work.
“I knew I wanted to do it since freshman year, since my first semester here,” Jirik said. “I got my TESOL certification and then last summer, I did a volunteer opportunity with an international volunteer organization in Bogotá,” Jirik said.
She said she hopes her experiences in Columbia will prepare her for a lifetime of work similar to next year.
“I love seeing Latin American countries and I want to live there permanently one day,” Jirik said. “I’m wanting to get better at Spanish; you always can be more fluent. I’m looking forward to learning how to teach in different contexts with different learners.”
Dalton, a senior accounting major from Little Rock, is teaching English to students in Malaysia, but will not know where in the country nor what age students she will teach until January.
Both Dalton and Jirik will receive English Teaching Assistantships for their time abroad. ETA’s are awarded to students who have committed to a variety of hours teaching in their host countries, and in some cases, students who have gained proficiency in the language of their host country.
Dalton said she’s looking to use the opportunity to gain experience before advancing to law school. She was accepted into Baylor Law School and starts there in the Spring of 2021.
As she looks forward to the opportunities working in Malaysia will afford, Dalton said experiences like this one are important.
“I believe this opportunity to teach and live abroad would be beneficial for any career, but I think it will be especially helpful as I prepare for a profession in law because of the international experience I will gain during my time in Malaysia.”
Both Jirik and Dalton are honors students, something that comes with an advantage, as Dr. Jason Morris, dean of the Honors College, has received two Fulbright awards and stands as a mentor for students as they pursue the award.
“I think it’s just getting an opportunity to engage a culture on a deep level, those deep bonds that you develop last a lifetime,” Morris said. “You create a more peaceful world.”