The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
Seattle Pacific senior Ruby O’Connor received a Student Fulbright Scholarship to be an English teaching assistant at a university in Turkey.
Photo credit: NATHAN SOSNOVSKE/The Falcon.
Four SPU students receive merit grant in last two years
By ALLISON NORTHROP,
Published: May 30 2012
Seattle Pacific senior Ruby O’Connor learned recently that she was one of the 2,000 chosen recipients of the Student Fulbright Scholarship.
“I was so excited,” O’Connor said. “It’s funny, thinking back to a year ago, because Fulbright sounded like this big thing that you had to be really smart to do.”
O’Connor is set to be an English teaching assistant or help in English resources at a university in Turkey after she graduates this year. She has yet to hear which university in Turkey she will teach at, but she knows she will be leaving around September.
While she’s there, she plans to do a lot of community engagement and hopes to help teach English to adults, specifically women, who may have not had the opportunities or resources to learn in the past.
O’Connor is specifically interested in the Turkish government’s ban on women veiling in public places. In Turkey, Islam is the predominant religion, but the Turkish government is a secular state.
“Ever since the Turkish republic was established in the 1920s, they’ve had some sort of secular bans against women veiling or Eastern expressions of clothes because they’re trying to identify with the West,” O’Connor said.
The Fulbright Scholarship is an international educational exchange program sponsored by U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. On the Fulbright Scholarship’s website, it says the program exists to increase understanding between people of the United States and people of other countries.
The grant lasts for eight to 10 months, and gives its recipients a fully paid stay with a stipend.
A person can apply as a student or a scholar; the student scholarship caters to graduating seniors and the scholar scholarship is reserved for college and university faculty members to conduct research abroad.
To qualify for the Student Fulbright grant, a person must be a U.S. citizen and have a bachelor’s degree, foreign language experience and good health.
The Student Fulbright scholarship is awarded to people typically from the ages of 21-25 years of age, said Dr. Margaret Diddams, Director of Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development at a recent Fulbright informational meeting held for students interested in applying for the grant.
“They want people who are invested and have a reason to go to the country. Not, ‘Oh I’m a social science major, and I don’t have a job,’” O’Connor said.
Over the last two years, SPU has had five finalists in the running for the scholarship, four of whom received the grant.
A student can either study, research or teach abroad with a Fulbright Scholarship. Three of the four current SPU Fulbright holders are teaching, Dr. Diddams said.
Among some of these SPU alumni who have participated in the Fulbright program are Ben Gown, who graduated in 2011 and is studying accordion music and education techniques in Brazil; Bekah Graham, who graduated in 2011 as well and is teaching English in Taiwan; and Harrison Dietzman, who graduated in 2011 and will soon leave to teach English in Slovakia.
Dr. Diddams advises SPU students who are going through the Fulbright application process.
“Fulbright is my passion,” she said at the Fulbright informational meeting.
Dr. Diddams said that the student’s application for a Fulbright not only has to be accepted by the U.S. government, but also by the country in which the applicant wants to study or teach.
The application has to be phrased so that the applicant shows that they not only have something to contribute to the society but also that they have something to learn from the society.
O’Connor said she took an interest in Turkey when she went on the Best Semester Middle East study abroad program in Cairo, Egypt. During her stay, she and her peers were able to travel to Turkey.
“I loved it,” she said. “There are a lot of green spaces, there’s a lot of water and it was raining, so it’s a very Seattle-esque. But then, there are also these huge Ottoman mosques and the Hagia Sophia that are dominating the skyline. At the same time, it’s also very European, so it’s the meeting of all those different cultures.”
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