Eleven Amherst students and young alumni have been offered scholarships sponsored by the U.S. Department of State that will enable them to experience foreign languages and cultures over the coming year. Two of them have won Critical Language Scholarships to study Chinese and Korean, respectively, this summer. Two have received funding from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to conduct research in France and Turkey. And seven will spend the coming year teaching English in Taiwan, Colombia and Cyprus, through Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (ETAs). In addition, three Amherst seniors have been chosen as alternates for Fulbright grants. (Another, Teo Ruskov ’22, was named a Fulbright alternate for research in Nepal but will instead embark on a Watson Fellowship.)

Critical Language Scholarship Winners

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“As an Asian languages and civilizations major, I have spent the past four years learning, researching and working to better understand China,” wrote Vivian Wei ’22 in her application. This summer, her Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) will take her to National Cheng Kung University in Tainan. “I hope to bring my perspectives and experiences to China and provide a more diverse and complete picture of what it means to be American and, more specifically, an American-born Chinese.”

Wei, who was born in Flushing, Queens—“home to New York City’s largest Chinese community”—has a long-term goal of becoming a dentist. “While in dental school, I hope to participate in a global outreach program to provide oral health care in China,” she wrote. “After graduating from dental school, I hope to practice in an underserved Asian community like the one I grew up in.” She believes the CLS will help her “gain the cultural competency necessary to become a compassionate, empathetic and understanding health care provider.”

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“Although I am just graduating from college this spring,” Lauren Kisare ’22 wrote, “I have unusual clarity about a future career in book publishing.” An English major from Bridgewater, N.J., she has already interned with the publisher Little, Brown and Co. and with two literary agencies. This summer, a Critical Language Scholarship to Chonnam National University Gwangju, South Korea, will aid her in her “journey to become a bilingual book editor.”

“Based on how strongly Americans have already connected to Korean popular culture, I believe there is a viable opportunity for Korean fiction and nonfiction to make an impact,” wrote Kisare, who has found herself captivated by the country’s literature and television. “By developing my linguistic and cultural understanding of the language, I hope to become an editor who can take on editorial projects in Korean and work with Korean authors to set them up for success in the U.S. market.” She has studied abroad in South Korea previously, and following her CLS summer she intends to spend a year studying at Sogang University’s Korean Language Education Center, and then to apply to the Seoul-based Literature Translation Institute.

Fulbright Research Award Winners

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Samuel Schulz ’22, a physics major from Bryn Mawr, Pa., has won a Fulbright Research Award to work at the Laboratoire Kastler Brossel in Paris. “I will search for quantum states known as ‘Andreev bound states’ in an ultracold gas of lithium to try to understand what role they might play in superconductivity,” he wrote in his application. This research will be informed by his experiences in the Amherst lab of David S. Hall ’91, the Paula R. and David J. Avenius 1941 Professor of Physics, and at Caltech’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Lab. Schulz will also take master’s-level physics courses at the École Normale Supérieure.

While in France, Schulz plans to continue pursuing his longtime interests in Ultimate Frisbee and jazz music, as well as volunteering to tutor low-income and disadvantaged schoolchildren through an organization called ZUPdeCO. “Having worked with various groups at Amherst which aim to promote access to STEM education,” he wrote, “I strongly support ZUPdeCO’s mission to provide a quality education to all French students.” When he returns to the United States, he intends to earn a Ph.D. in atomic, molecular and optical physics and to “teach the next generation of physics researchers.”

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“If you had told me at the beginning of college that I would graduate as an art history major with a specialty in Ottoman architecture and proficiency in German and Arabic, I would have been astounded,” wrote Jane Bragdon ’20, from West Linn, Ore., in her application for a Fulbright Research Award. She “fell in love with the discipline” while taking a class in Islamic art and working at Amherst’s Emily Dickinson Museum and Mead Art Museum. She learned Arabic in Lebanon and took brief research trips to Turkey. “My senior year culminated in a thesis focusing on Empress Hürrem Sultan’s contributions to early modern Ottoman architecture. Since graduation, despite the pandemic, I continued my work in Islamic art history by studying Modern Turkish and working as a research assistant for Professor Yael Rice.”

Soon, Bragdon’s Fulbright grant will take her back to Turkey, to spend two years at Koç University in Istanbul. There she will study both Modern and Ottoman Turkish and complete a master’s project, informed by anthropological theory and gender studies, that builds upon her undergraduate thesis, exploring the architectural legacies not only of the empress but of her daughter Mihrimah Sultan and her successor Nurbanu Sultan.

Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Winners

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“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.”

A young woman smiles while standing in front of a red brick building with a plaque on the door reading built in 1917..
“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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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“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.”

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“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.

Fulbright Alternates

Lucy Carlson ’22’s proposed project, should she receive a Fulbright Research Award, is titled “The Missing Story: Uncovering the Japanese Civilian Perspective of World War II.”

“I will interview Japanese nationals in the Tokyo area and in more rural regions, such as locations in the Miyagi Prefecture, about their wartime experiences,” she wrote. “I will also utilize archived resources, such as eyewitness accounts of the firebombings collected in the 1970s by the Center of the Tokyo Raid and War Damages, and wartime newspaper articles stored in the National Archives of Japan.” The end result would be an “online museum”: a Japanese-English bilingual website featuring transcripts and recordings of these stories.

Carlson, a Palo Alto, Calif., resident whose mother is from Japan, explained that this project aligns not only with her major in Asian languages and civilizations, but also with her senior thesis for her English major, which is a study of World War II historical fiction. Carlson also conveyed the urgency of her Fulbright project: The only people who can directly describe Japanese civilian experiences of the war “are those who were actually there, and this population is rapidly declining as many are reaching their 80s and 90s.”

“Serving as an English Teaching Assistant in South Korea is a natural outgrowth of my longstanding commitment to equitable, inclusive and culturally relevant education for all students, particularly in STEM fields,” wrote Nicole Chung ’22. A double major in chemistry and education studies from Chestnut Hill, Mass., she has co-chaired Amherst’s Chemistry Anti-Racism Action Committee and facilitated the course “Being Human in STEM.”

In her Fulbright application, Chung explained that living and teaching in South Korea would also be an opportunity for her to learn more about her own identity, as her father’s parents immigrated to the United States from Korea. “In the same way that the students I teach will be grasping a new language,” she wrote, “I will also be a student grappling with what it means to be Korean.” If she receives an ETA, she is eager to experiment with traditional and modern Korean cooking techniques—“with a particular emphasis on my favorite food, kimchi”—and to draw on her experience as a Boston Marathon runner to share her passions for physical fitness and mindfulness.

Should Caroline Seitz ’22 embark on an ETA in Uruguay, she wrote, “I hope to share the cultural value placed on close-knit community storytelling that was imbued in me growing up in Tennessee.” It’s part of her larger mission: “I know I want to be an activist for children’s literacy and make books accessible for children of all cultural backgrounds. Within a few years, I would like to earn an MFA in creative writing. In the long term, I hope to help found a nonprofit children’s theater company that promotes children’s literacy and accessibility in storytelling.”

An English and Spanish major, Seitz noted in her Fulbright application that her earliest teaching experiences came in high school, when she worked at a summer program for children from disadvantaged rural communities in Middle Tennessee; she has more recently tutored an Amherst peer in Spanish. She has taken a seminar on “The ABCs of Publishing,” launched a social media storytelling collective called Cerealization and interned for the TriadaUS literary agency. Active in the Amherst student theater group The Green Room, Seitz would like to immerse herself in the Uruguayan theater scene and take courses in theater and literature at the University of Montevideo.