Eleven Amherst students and young alumni have been offered scholarships sponsored by the U.S. Department of State that will allow them to immerse themselves in foreign languages and cultures over the coming year. One of these has won a Critical Language Scholarship to study Russian this summer. One has received funding from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to conduct research in Norway (while another, Djelimory Diabate ’21, right, was offered a Fulbright for research in Morocco, but declined in favor of a Ph.D. program at Harvard). And eight will spend the year teaching English in Taiwan, South Korea, France and Lithuania, through Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (ETA). In addition, two Amherst seniors and two recent graduates have been chosen as alternates for the ETA.
In a letter to college fellowship advisers, Fulbright U.S. Student Program Director Daniel Kramer called this a year of “unprecedented competitiveness” for the program, with a record 11,728 applicants. “This year’s grantee cohort,” he wrote, “will consist of 2020–2021 Fulbrighters who have not yet been able to start their program due to COVID [travel restrictions], as well as those selected this spring for the 2021–2022 cycle,” for a total of about 2,200 grantees from across the United States.
Critical Language Scholarship
In her application for a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), Reid Dodson ’24 linked her desire to study Russian with her background as a flautist: “All three of my favorite composers are Russian: Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov,” she wrote. “I spent the summers before my last three years of high school at an intensive music institute. Like CLS, the experience was immersive.”
In light of the ongoing pandemic, this summer’s immersion in Russian language and culture will take place virtually. Dodson hails from Charlottesville, Va., intends to major in Russian and aspires to become a Foreign Service officer for the State Department.
Fulbright Open Study/Research Award
For a semester in her junior year, geology major Olivia Moehl ’20 studied abroad in Svalbard, Norway, an archipelago she describes as “home to an impressive diversity of exposed geology, yet especially inaccessible due to the remote arctic setting.” Her Fulbright research grant will take her back to Svalbard, where she will study how digital tools such as Google Earth can and cannot be used to make geological fieldwork more accessible. Her future goals include “a graduate degree in structural geology with a focus on arctic regions.”
Moehl—who is from Bend, Ore., and was on the women’s track and cross-country teams at Amherst—plans to join a running club in Svalbard and to participate in local marathons in the spring. In addition, she wrote, “I will immerse myself in Norway’s traditional folk music culture with my fiddle, collaborating with local musicians to learn and share songs.”
Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships
While studying abroad in Shanghai during his junior year, Benjamin Aliaga ’21 helped design English classes involving songs and puppets to entertain and educate the children of his Mandarin instructors. With his Fulbright ETA, he intends to create similar experiences for English learners in Taiwan.
Aliaga is from Vienna, Va., and is also a citizen of Peru and Spain. He sees connections between his Peruvian heritage and his experiences with Chinese language and culture, “because so much of Peru’s culture has been influenced by the large diasporic community of Chinese Peruvians.” At Amherst, he is a triple major in anthropology, Asian languages and civilizations, and Latinx and Latin American studies.
In his Fulbright year, Aliaga plans to explore Taiwan’s LGBTQ+-friendly bookstores, theaters and social groups. “I plan to volunteer with one of the many nonprofit groups in Taiwan that support people living with HIV/AIDS,” he adds. “I hope to help a segment of the queer community that often gets swept under the rug and to provide connection, friendship and support to people who are most likely to be ostracized.”
Also hoping to “volunteer at local health nonprofits that serve Taiwan’s vulnerable populations” is Sabrina Lin ’21, an anthropology major and pre-med student at Amherst. “An ETA in Taiwan will allow me to gain the transnational perspective, language proficiency and relationship-building skills necessary for serving recently immigrated Chinese and Taiwanese Americans,” the aspiring doctor wrote in her Fulbright application.
Lin grew up near San Francisco; her father is from Beijing, and her mother is from Taipei. “My decision to pursue an ETA in Taiwan comes largely by way of my background in Asian American studies,” she wrote, “but it is also an attempt to make sense of all the times when I have inevitably clashed with my Taiwanese mother’s fundamental worldviews, and all the times my home country has never recognized faces like mine as truly American.”
Also headed to Taiwan is Evan Daisy ’21, a biology and math double major from Stow, Mass. His ETA will build on his previous experiences supervising and teaching children: “Almost every summer since middle school I have been working with younger kids, as a counselor, babysitter and tutor, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Daisy has performed with the Amherst Symphony Orchestra, the Concert Choir, the Route 9 a cappella group and one of the College’s jazz combos. “I feel uniquely connected to those with whom I play music,” he wrote, “and with my limited Mandarin this universal language seems like the perfect way to communicate with and relate to people in Taiwan.” A self-described nature lover, he is also interested to explore the country’s parks and conservation lands, or to participate in a gardening or tree-planting project in an urban area.
“In every language, I am a storyteller,” wrote Cy Nguyen ’21, from Garden Grove, Calif., who speaks English, Vietnamese, Japanese and Mandarin. During her ETA in Taiwan, “I hope to craft stories of my experiences while traversing through the National Museum of History and the Museum of Contemporary Art.” Also, she wrote, “Every year, I have the goal of watching 100 new movies, and this endeavor will remain consistent in Taiwan. … While attending Taiwan’s only International Queer Film Festival and Ethnographic Film Festival, I hope to learn about Taiwanese activism and politics, while sharing stories of activism in America.”
A transfer student to Amherst, Nguyen is a double major in sociology and Asian languages and civilizations, as well as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. Upon completing the ETA, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology and demography, noting, “My ultimate goal is to become director of the U.S. Census Bureau.”
“I must admit that I have long been a Francophile,” wrote Luke Williamson ’21 in applying for the ETA that will take him to France. While there, he plans to volunteer with Ghett’up, “a nonprofit that serves young people in Saint-Denis, the poorest region in France. They work to destigmatize working-class neighborhoods and help young changemakers take pride in their city.”
Williamson, a resident of Cedar Park, Texas, and a transfer student to Amherst, has majored in English and interned at the Mead Art Museum, professing a particular interest in Byzantine and Medieval art and architecture. “I aspire to hone my facility with the French language by pursuing a master of arts in French at Middlebury College,” he wrote. “Eventually, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in art history.”
To her Fulbright ETA year in Lithuania, Sarah Montoya ’21 believes she will “bring a unique perspective, being both Lithuanian American and Navajo,” she wrote. “I find similarities between the occupation of Lithuania and the oppression that my Native American ancestors went through.” She is especially eager to visit Šeduva, a town to which she has traced her ancestry.
Montoya, who lives in Belmont, Mass., has worked with Lakota youth from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and led Amherst’s Native and Indigenous Student Association. In that role, she led the effort to design and install a formal land acknowledgment plaque on the Amherst campus, one of the official projects of the 2021 College Bicentennial celebration. Building on her major in environmental studies, “I aim to work in education as a professor of environmental history,” she wrote. “I also hope to be an advocate for Native students and serve as a mentor to that community.”
“I first became interested in Korea through K-pop and the rhythm of the Korean language,” wrote Abigail Offei-Addo ’21, an English major from North Billerica, Mass. When her Fulbright ETA takes her to an English classroom in South Korea, she will “draw upon my honors thesis, which focuses on webtoons, a form of digital comics endemic to South Korea, to engage in cultural discussions surrounding media and popular culture.”
Her pedagogy will also be informed by her experience as “a former homeschooler who took online classes” and as a Sunday School teacher to 25 children. Offei-Addo has been a member and director of the Amherst College Resurrect Gospel Choir, among other religious groups and activities, and she plans to engage with the Christian community in South Korea.
Angela Hernandez Veloza ’17 credits one of her college roommates, as well as Amherst organizations such as the Korean Students Association, with sparking her interest in Korean culture.
“As a recent U.S. citizen who emigrated from Colombia at 12 years old,” she wrote in her application for an ETA in South Korea, “I know the limitations of not being skilled at knowing the English language and the hardships of acquiring English.” She continued: “I am interested both in the lives of native Koreans and Latin Americans who now live there. I will [learn about them] by connecting with cultural centers and the Colombian embassy in Korea.”
A political science major from Alabama, Hernandez Veloza wrote, “Upon returning to the United States, I will apply to enter graduate school for a doctorate in higher education focusing on multiculturalism.”
Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Alternates
If Sara Kaufman ’21 is able to receive an ETA, it will be a chance to return to Argentina after her first attempt to study there was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Her senior thesis explores “the connections between memory and contemporary values in Argentina,” and an ETA would allow her to witness “how ordinary people have dealt with the economic and social consequences of the 1970s dictatorship led by Jorge Rafael Videla.”
Kaufman comes from Mount Sinai, N.Y., and majors in anthropology and Spanish. She aspires toward graduate degrees in Iberian and Latin American cultures, and then “an academic career of analyzing the connections between collective memory, art and culture.” “I wish to teach in the New York City public system,” she wrote, “to assure that high-level intellectual pursuit is attainable even for those who cannot afford private school education.”
“Becoming a grantee would open countless doors towards my desired trajectory—that of international journalism and correspondence,” wrote James Tripaldi ’19, an English and Russian major from Ashland, Mass., who is also considering joining the Peace Corps. But first, a Fulbright ETA would mean a year in Kazakhstan, teaching English and learning Kazakh.
“I am fascinated by the dombra—a dynamic two-stringed instrument central to the country’s musical tradition,” he wrote. “I would furthermore like to bring my background as a multi-instrumentalist to the table and collaborate with Kazakh musicians.” He would like to produce a podcast or blog with his students or local community members.
“The ETA role will build on my time in Japan this year as an English language assistant and ambassador,” wrote Elizabeth Sturley ’20, from Austin, Texas, who is currently an Amherst-Doshisha Fellow. Through the Fulbright ETA program, she would like to travel to Kosovo.
“I created my own major at Amherst called ‘Justice and Human Rights,’ combining legal studies, history and race studies, along with political science and international relations,” she wrote. “My time teaching English, presenting on U.S. culture and furthering ambassadorial skills will prove invaluable in my future goals in peace-building advocacy and in representing the U.S. at an international peace organization.”
“My service as a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army, a student government association senator at Hillsborough Community College, and as a tutor at Amherst College have given me the commitment, flexibility and maturity to succeed as an ETA in the Czech Republic,” wrote David Anasky ’21, a history major from Riverview, Fla. “I have enjoyed my time teaching soldiers in the U.S. Army and tutoring students through the Warrior-Scholar Project.”
If given the opportunity to live and work in the Czech Republic, Anasky plans to pursue a range of hobbies and interests, from backpacking and weightlifting to touring historical sites and sampling traditional desserts. He would also like to make connections with Czech military veterans.