Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Winners
“In Colombia,” wrote Fulbright ETA winner Hugh Ford ’20, “I hope to assign a project in which my students record a podcast episode in English about a facet of American culture that interests them—folk music, American football, or even hotdogs and hamburgers!” Such a project would draw upon Ford’s experience co-hosting a podcast during his recent AmeriCorps VISTA service focusing on affordable housing access in Wyoming.
A Spanish and math double major from Chevy Chase, Md., Ford has also studied abroad in Uruguay and taught English to high schoolers in Spain. In his Fulbright application, he described his time as an ESL tutor at Jones Library in the Town of Amherst, working with a UMass Ph.D. scholar from China and bonding with him in the process. “As I now imagine my life as an ETA in Colombia,” Ford wrote, “I picture the connections I will make in my new community—getting to know my students, my colleagues and my neighbors, and making lifelong friends.”
“Cyprus sits at the intersection of the Mediterranean, bordered by both Greek and Turkish traditions, and inhabited by various civilizations over millennia,” wrote Naya Burshan ’22 in her Fulbright ETA application. “The island, like me, stands at a cultural crossroads foundational to its identity.” A daughter of Syrian immigrants to Worcester, Mass., Burshan helped to revive the dormant Middle Eastern and North African Student Association at Amherst, and looks forward to engaging with Cypriot religious communities and holy sites during her Fulbright year.
Burshan, an economics major, also wrote about her experiences as a teaching assistant in computer science and as a residential tutor in Amherst’s Summer Bridge program for low-income students like herself. “As a future teacher with a notably quantitative education,” she wrote, her supplementary project in Cyprus will be “to teach quantitative subjects in English,” such as economics, computational thinking and basic coding. “Upon completing my ETA in Cyprus, I plan to continue working with diverse groups of scholars by teaching high school students in underserved communities. Specifically, I plan to teach either economics or computer science, since these courses can help close the opportunity gap.”
Sophie Ewing ’22, from Washington, D.C., has studied Mandarin for many years and has spent time in mainland China on several occasions, visiting family members throughout her childhood and studying abroad in 2017. But soon her Fulbright ETA will allow her to experience Taiwan, the country to which her grandfather fled during China’s communist revolution of 1949. She looks forward to connecting with the LGBTQ+ community there, as a volunteer at nonprofits and as a visitor to queer-friendly businesses and arts spaces.
Ewing, a double major in English and Asian languages and civilizations, aspires to a career as a museum educator. At Amherst, she has interned at the Mead Art Museum and mentored kids through a literacy program called Reader to Reader. “These are skills that would still serve me well teaching in person in a classroom,” she wrote in her Fulbright application, “as I believe it’s important to personally engage students, especially younger students, so they will be enthusiastic about their learning and have strong role models.”
Having studied Mandarin since 2006 and taught at a summer camp in rural China in 2015, Emma Ratshin ’22 decided to make things official during the COVID-19 pandemic: she took a semester off from Amherst and became certified to teach English as a foreign language. She will put this certification to use during her Fulbright ETA in Taiwan, where she will also draw upon her training in drama, puppetry and music: “The Sinophone world has a rich theatrical history, and I am excited for the opportunity to help kids tap into their own cultural heritage to tell stories through performance.”
Ratshin comes from Seattle and majors in theater and dance and political science. Beyond her Fulbright year, she hopes to stay in Taiwan or move to mainland China as part of a program called WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. “After that,” she wrote, “I plan to apply to Ph.D. programs in performance studies or an M.F.A. in acting, with the goal of becoming a professor as well as a working performer.”
When Molly Sanderson ’22 wrote, in her Fulbright application, about the “fabric” of Taiwanese culture, she meant the word literally: “As a lens to explore Taiwan, I hope to visit fabric markets and meet seamstresses, collecting textiles along the way,” she wrote. “Bonding with my grandmother at our sewing machines and in fabric shops remains a treasured part of my life, and I hope that I can connect with women in Taiwan through our shared love for textiles and the art of sewing.”
Sanderson, who spent her early childhood in Hong Kong before her family moved to Seattle, also drew connections between the processes of sewing and learning Mandarin, and noted that she has used her time at the sewing machine to reflect upon her career interests. “My favorite things have always involved children: camp counseling, tutoring, nannying, interpersonal relationship education and more,” she wrote. “I am proud to be graduating this year with the college’s brand-new major in education studies.” Her other major is mathematics, so she hopes “to earn a master’s in education, perhaps focusing my studies on social justice in math education.”
“As I engage with students, I hope to complicate their understanding of ‘American’ culture,” wrote Theresa Tian ’20 in applying for a Fulbright ETA in Taiwan, “and, in turn, to examine critically my own beliefs about how education can best support individual and social change.” Having immigrated to the United States from China as a young child, Tian entered Amherst intending to become a doctor, but eventually decided “to turn from a medical career to a community-based career in education.” Since graduating with a B.A. in English, she has worked for a college consulting company based in Beijing and served as a Work First Fellow for America Works of New York.
In Taiwan, Tian would like “to lead a creative writing club for students to write fiction, essays, poems, song lyrics and even jokes. My hope is to create a community where students can feel empowered to share their own thinking and writing process with their peers, value diverse perspectives and improve their language skills in a supportive setting.”
“A Fulbright ETA in Taiwan provides me with the opportunity to pursue my passions for teaching, social research and storytelling,” wrote Maggie Wu ’22 in her application. “Stories, in truth, have pervaded every aspect of my life, and the discovery of my personal story is one of the reasons I seek this opportunity.” In Lake Oswego, Ore., Wu grew up hearing her parents’ stories about their family history in China—a history she later also found reflected in Pai Hsien-yung’s short story collection 台北人 (Taipei People), which made her “hope to find, to read, and to write my story in Taiwan.”
Wu wrote of her experience reading stories to children at a camp where she worked one summer, adding, “I have also found storytelling effective when teaching my college peers as a statistics and data science teaching fellow and tutor.” A double major in statistics and sociology, she plans to enroll in graduate school after her Fulbright year, studying computational social science and focusing her research on race relations in the United States.