Two new Wooster grads earn Fulbright Awards to serve as English teaching assistants

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Two new graduates from The 91Թ, Julie Larick ’24 and Abby Thomson ’24, have received Fulbright Awards to teach English abroad for one year beginning in October. Larick and Thomson will serve in Serbia and Romania, respectively. Wooster’s deep commitment to producing internationally minded graduates has led to its 26 Fulbright awardees since 2010.

“It was a tremendous honor to learn I had been selected to receive this Fulbright Award,” said Thomson. “The program closely aligns with my long-term career goals and personal interests, so I’m really excited about the opportunity.” Larick agreed, adding “I am thrilled for the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely new 91Թ, one that I have never fully experienced outside of family stories and photos.”

The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program sends awardees to classrooms abroad to help teach the English language and serve as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. Though it varies by country, ETAs may work with students ranging from kindergarten up to the university level. This award includes a stipend, travel and relocation allowance, an allowance for research/books and community integration (such as language classes), and health benefits. Following their work in the program, participants also receive a non-competitive eligibility hiring status for 12 months for federal government positions.

Julie Larick ’24

Julie Larick ’24

Larick is a double major in English and environmental studies who will work with English language classes at a Serbian university. “I hope to learn the Serbian language to communicate fluidly with my grandmother and extended relatives,” said Larick. She’s also interested in using a language proficiency to pursue poetry translation work in the future, as there are numerous Serbian poets whose writing has not been translated into English yet. “I hope to visit numerous historical sites around Serbia to inspire my own poetry and complete a full-length poetry manuscript on the region,” she said.

To extend her pedagogical knowledge and learn from experienced writers, Larick plans to apply for an MFA in Poetry after her time abroad. “This Fulbright opportunity will allow me to learn university-level teaching skills that can translate to a creative writing workshop environment,” she said. “In the long term, I hope to continue my fascination with literature, cross-cultural exchanges, translation, and nature through my career and personal engagement.”

Thomson, a double major in global & international studies and French & Francophone studies, will be posted at Vasile Alecsandri University in Bacău, Romania, one of the country’s larger cities. Depending on the needs of the university, she expects to help with English courses, as well as organizing social events for the departments. She also hopes to learn Romanian and develop a greater understanding of Romanian 91Թ.

“Ideally, my time in Eastern Europe will help me become more familiar with a part of the world that I don’t have much direct experience with,” said Thomson, adding that she can carry this new perspective into graduate studies and her career. Following the Fulbright program, Thomson plans to attend Georgetown University to pursue a Master of Science in Foreign Service. “After that, I hope to work in policy advising in some capacity, ideally for the federal government, but I’m open to other paths as well,” she said.

Wooster’s Interim Fulbright Advisor, John Siewert, associate professor of art history, manages campus outreach and recruitment of potential Fulbright applicants. He provided guidance for Larick, Thomson, and seven of their peers throughout the application process and coordinated campus interviews and evaluations.

“Many students arrive at Wooster with an already well-developed worldview, which deepens through their interactions with an impressively international student body and a curriculum emphasizing global awareness and action,” explained Siewert. “Our outstanding study abroad programs and the rigor of our Independent Study requirement give Wooster students further advantages as Fulbright applicants.”

Abby Thomson ’24

Abby Thomson ’24

Thomson can attest to these advantages having studied abroad in Nantes, France and lived in the Luce French language suite on campus at Wooster during her junior and senior years. Additionally, she found it helpful at Wooster to have interacted with Fulbright students from other countries who have come to the U.S. to support American students in their language studies. Larick, too, brings experience to life abroad having studied at The University of Oxford in 2022.

Both students say Siewert’s guidance was extremely helpful, and Larick noted he “provided ceaseless enthusiasm for my success at the program.” Each has been significantly impacted by support from Wooster faculty members throughout the past four years, too. “Daniel Bourne, professor emeritus of English suggested the Fulbright Award to me during an initial advising meeting when I told him about my plan to write a poetry manuscript about my grandparents’ immigration from Serbia for my Independent Study,” said Larick. “I owe this opportunity in part to his constant support and enthusiasm for my work, and Professor Bourne’s own trips to Poland on Fulbright Scholarships inspired me to apply.”

For Thomson, Jeffrey Lantis, professor of political science and global and international studies, strongly informed her long-term professional goals, which she hopes the Fulbright program will be the first step towards achieving. Additionally, encouragement from Harry Gamble, Inez K. Gaylord Professor of French and Francophone Studies, and Marion Duval, associate professor and chair of French and Francophone studies, led her to major in French (rather than minor). “My experiences in the department prompted my initial interest in the Fulbright program and left me well-equipped to succeed as an ETA,” she said.

As a past Fulbright awardee himself, Siewert can attest to the lifelong value of the Fulbright experience. “The Fulbright name is known widely around the world. It makes people take notice, and it opens doors,” he said. “I’m confident Julie and Abby will take advantage of every opportunity they encounter during their Fulbright experience. We are sending Serbia and Romania two ‘ambassadors’ we can be proud of.”

Posted in News on June 3, 2024.

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