Prestigious Fellowship Success Stories
Randy Santiago '18
Fulbright to Spain
Randy Santiago '18 has earned a Fulbright award to Spain. He will spend the 2018-19 academic year teaching English to high school students and facilitating an English language community book club. “I’m the first in my family to receive a bachelor’s degree,” Santiago said. “I’m the only person in my immediate family to have traveled abroad for any purpose. As a child in Chicago, I spent many days and nights without sufficient amounts of food, electricity, and sometimes gas during the winter. I never imagined making it out of my neighborhood, let alone onto a college campus. It took becoming homeless two weeks after my graduation to convince me that college was my best future option. I’m still homeless and still poor, but I became a Fulbright, and I became the first college graduate in my family.”
Talitha McGuire '19
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
Talitha McGuire ’19 has earned a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, and she’s headed to Madagascar for the fall semester. She will use her $3,000 award to study conservation and natural resource management at the School for International Training. She has big goals for her time on the island. “I hope to take away a deeper understanding of what natural resource management and conservation look like in rural communities where individuals and the ecosystems around them are inextricably intertwined,” McGuire said. “I’ve wanted to go to Madagascar for as long as I can remember. This trip is pretty much my dream come true, and I cannot thank everyone at Cornell who has supported me, especially Laura Farmer and my advisor Professor Steven Sacks.”
Yiyari De La Garza '17
Fulbright to Georgia
Yiyari De La Garza '17 is one of four Fulbright English Teaching Assistants in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The Russian and International Relations major says her parents, who are Mexican immigrants, inspired her to pursue a career in language and education. "Growing up we were all learning English in my household," De La Garza said. "As my father was moving from more manual positions to more supervisory positions in construction, he'd give me an email to revise for grammar. I've done that since I was 10. A month ago he sent me one of his instruction manuals to edit." She met Professor of Russian, Lynne Ikach, her first day on campus during orientation. "A few days later she helped me pick my first class. She's helped me from basic 101 Russian to my capstone project and Fulbright application," she says. She also credits Professor of History Robert Givens and Writing Studio Director and Director of Fellowships and Scholarships Laura Farmer with providing ongoing support and motivation. She plans to pursue graduate school in international security.
Sydney Strunk '17
Fulbright to Colombia
Sydney Strunk ’17 will be headed to Colombia to serve as an English Teaching Assistant at the National University of Colombia in Bogota, Columbia, thanks to a Fulbright grant. She will also volunteer at a medical clinic in the area. Once she returns to the U.S. she will apply for medical school. The Spanish and biochemistry & molecular biology double major credits her Spanish coursework and her work with Operation Walk in Havana, Cuba, with helping her prepare for this next step. She has also worked closely with the Dimensions Program for Health Professions and her professors to prepare a competitive application for medical school once she’s ready. She also expressed her gratitude to Professor of Biology Craig Tepper and Professor of Chemistry Jai Shanata. “They have both been tremendous mentors, as they are always very supportive and encouraging and have given me a lot of confidence in terms of academics and pursuing my future goals,” said Strunk, who is from Ottumwa, Iowa. “Whether it be a question about homework or life in general, both Tepper and Jai are always there to listen.”
Kyle Durgin '14
Gilman Scholar to Guatemala
Kyle Durgin ’14, a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, spent nine weeks in Guatemala as a Gilman Scholar. He studied Spanish at the Juan Sisay Spanish School in Xela, Guatemala, taking intensive language courses in the mornings and participating in community activities, such as weaving, dancing, and cooking, in the afternoons. Durgin also lived with a local family, making his immersion into the Guatemalan culture complete. “My incredible experiences in Guatemala wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance I received from the Gilman Scholarship. The application process for the Gilman Scholarship was time consuming, but completely worth the effort. Their website was very easy to use, and they guide you step-by-step through the application process. I highly recommend students that are looking for a life-changing, study-abroad experience to apply.”
Madison Chicoine '16
Fulbright to Thailand
Madison Chicoine ’16, an elementary education major with an art endorsement, spent a year in Thailand teaching English on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant fellowship. “I thought that the Fulbright would be a perfect fit for that because I am an elementary education major, and, during my time student teaching in the Iowa City School District I had many students whose first language was not English,” Chicoine said. While in Thailand Chicoine taught at a primary school and helped with a summer camp. “After my year is up I could pursue a master’s degree in ESL (English as a second language) or continue working in schools with a high percentage of English language learners. I’m really open to anything because I have a lot of different interests and it’s so hard to tell how this experience is going to shape me.”
Kayla Morton '16
Fulbright to Azerbaijan
Kayla Morton ’16, an international relations and Russian major, was awarded a Fulbright to Azerbaijan. As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant she taught Azerbaijani college students English and American culture. Before traveling to Azerbaijan Morton looked “forward to learning about Azerbaijani culture and getting to know the students,” Morton said. “Moreover, I look forward in being able to challenge myself.” Morton had a significant amount of teaching experience, thanks to the Writing Studio. Morton worked as a Writing Consultant for two years before being promoted to a Writing and Teaching Consultant position in her third year. “What ‘won’ me this award was Christ and my faith in Him,” Morton said. “I know that this would not be possible for me unless the Lord meant for me to have the opportunity to win this award.” In addition to teaching in Azerbaijan, Morton also pursued outside research and started a student art program.
Miranda Donnellan '17
Gilman to Korea
Miranda Donnellan, ’17, a classical studies major, won a Gilman award to study Korean at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. Donnellan, of Austin, Texas, said she’s been fascinated by the Korean language and Korean culture since her first year of high school. She had already written a proposal to spend the second semester of her junior year in the country, and received approval from Cornell, but needed the extra funding the Gilman Scholarship provides in order to make her plan a reality. She heard about the scholarship program from Cornell senior Jeannene Clark, who spent fall 2014 studying Arabic in Jordan with the help of a Gilman Scholarship. Donnellan worked closely with Laura Farmer, Writing Studio Director and Fellowship Director at Cornell College, to prepare her essays. “We walked through the entire application,” Donnellan said, “and planned every step of the two essays I had to write and how to make them stand out.”
Chris Stadler '12
Fulbright to Germany
Chris Stadler, a 2012 graduate of Cornell College from Portland, Ore., won a Fulbright grant through the U.S. Department of State to serve as an English teaching assistant in Germany. He was one of 140 students selected to teach in Germany during the 2012-2013 school year. He worked with a range of students in grades 5-12. Stadler, who lived abroad in Germany prior to attending Cornell, was thrilled to return. As a US ambassador Stadler encouraged German pupils "to travel and live abroad when they’re my age. The experience makes you realize just how varied and complex the world really is—it’s very humbling.” Stadler noted that the award is not just recognition for his academic work, but the culmination of an intentional process that included a variety of academic and co-curricular experiences, including working in the Writing Studio, serving as an English-language tutor for adults, and running cross country and track. “The best thing about Cornell is that there are allies everywhere who want you to succeed,” he said, noting that the Writing Studio staff and Coach Dan Schofer provided some of his strongest support.
Michelle Ngirbabul '16
Rangel Summer Fellowship
Michelle Ngirbabul ’16, an International Relations and Public Health major, was a Rangel Summer Fellow for the summer of 2014. "Being a 2014 Charles B. Rangel Scholar for the summer was a life-changing experience. I spent six wonderful weeks at Howard University in Washington, D.C. alongside 14 other brilliant students who were passionate about making careers in international relations. Through various courses and meetings with ambassadors from the State Department, USAID, UN, and other organizations, I learned of many different careers and opportunities in international relations. This experience opened my eyes to how broad the field is and, most importantly, showed me how to combine my studies here at Cornell in international relations and global health in many different ways. “There was also so much time to explore and experience D.C.’s vibrant environment with friends! The connections and friendships I made will endure beyond this summer and will follow me throughout my life. Because of this program, I am more confident and determined to pursue a career as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development."
Kayla Jennene Clark '16
Gilman to Jordan
Kayla Jeannene Clark ’16, an English and International Relations major, studied Middle-Eastern and Arabic language in Jordan through the ACM Jordan program as a Gilman scholar. “In Jordan, I studied Arabic as well as the ways food ties in to culture in the Middle East and Northern Africa region. This trip marked my first time out of the US, so every aspect of my time abroad was new and special. The program I was with, AMIDEAST, made sure that in addition to academics we were able to explore the country with field trips to places like Petra and Wadi Rum, and interact with Jordanians through cultural dialogues and language partners. I went rappelling down waterfalls, hiked through desert and mountains, met families in rural areas who were struggling to provide their children with quality education, successfully navigated taxis, and ate too much falafel. My time abroad has helped me improve my ability to navigate life despite my fears and has solidified my desire to travel and learn more about languages and cultures.”
Yesenia Hernandez '15
Gilman to Nepal, Chile, and Jordan
Yesenia Hernandez ‘15, a double major in Human Rights and Religion, won a Gilman scholarship which funded her travels New York City, Nepal, Chile, and Jordan through the SIT: International Honors Program. "My experiences abroad altered the course of my life. Traveling to NYC, Chile, Jordan, and Nepal gave me a profoundly different perspective on my future and life itself. Experiencing issues surrounding human rights first hand made a world of difference. In each place I visited I gained a family and connection to the country. Without this experience I would not of been able to pursue an in depth understanding of my major, human rights. I will be forever grateful for receiving the Benjamin Gilman Scholarship that made this trip possible.”
Will Dinneen '12
Fulbright to Turkey
Will Dinneen won a Fulbright scholarship to teach English to university students in Turkey—one of only 50 such scholarships awarded there through the U.S. Department of State. Dinneen, a politics major, has long had a passion for Turkey, and that’s played out in his studies. After his sophomore year at Cornell, he spent the summer in Turkey as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship Program. He also spent eight weeks during his junior year as a Cornell Fellow at a law firm in Hungary. As a senior he worked on an independent research project about the risks Turkey and Hungary are facing by re-writing their constitutions. “I would not have had the confidence both intellectually and emotionally to apply for the Fulbright without my time as a student at Cornell,” Dinneen said.
Hana Martin '16
Gilman to Spain
Hana Martin ‘16, a Secondary Education and Spanish major, was selected as a Gilman scholar. Hana studied for one semester in Granada, Spain through Central College Abroad. “Without the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, studying abroad in Granada, Spain would have been less plausible. As an education major, a component of my program was to intern as an English Teaching Assistant in a public, trilingual secondary school. “Going abroad, you learn not only about the culture in whichever country, but also more about your own culture through the eyes of those in the different country. It really teaches the importance of not making assumptions about others' cultures and of reevaluating your own actions and beliefs. “I plan to continue traveling, learning as much as I can about other cultures before "settling down." When I am a teacher, I will encourage my students to withhold judgment and be open to other ways of life – there is so much more out there than what we know here in the U.S.!”
Bekah Kurtz '15
Fulbright to India
Bekah Kurtz ’15, an international development major, taught English in India for one year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Before applying for the Fulbright Bekah spent the second semester of her junior year in India as part of the School for International Training’s study abroad program. For most of the program she stayed with a family in Jaipur and learned about the country’s developing economy. She also spent a month in Himachal Pradesh, a state in the far north of the country. As a Fulbright ETA Kurtz taught English in New Delhi for 20 hours each week and took lessons in Hindi during her free time. She also pursued her passion for cooking.
Muriel Grubb '16
Critical Language Scholarship winner
Muriel Grubb ’16, an archeology major, won a Critical Language Scholarship and spent the summer studying the Turkish language in Turkey. The CLS program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is a fully-funded overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. Grubb spent two and a half months with a family in Turkey while studying Turkish and participating in cultural immersion activities designed to give her an understanding of the country’s politics, history, and culture. Her decision to apply to the CLS program, which covers the entire cost for participants, including travel and living expenses, was driven by both her interest in Turkey and her passion for archaeology. Many archaeology students study French or German, but while taking a course at Cornell on the history and spread of Islam, she realized that the Ottoman Empire was in control of parts of Eastern Europe and Western Asia for centuries—far longer than recent colonial powers. “I thought I would learn a lot more by studying Turkish,” she said.
Tiffany Monreal '14
Fulbright to Korea
Tiffany Monreal ’14, a double major in economics and business and international relations, taught English in South Korea from July 2014 to July 2015 as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She studied in South Korea as part of an exchange program in high school. “I immediately fell in love with the country, language, and people," she said, and she was excited to return. In addition to teaching, Monreal also studied Samulnori, a traditional Korean percussion instrument. “I’ve been studying Samulnori since I was in high school and going to Korea to learn from masters of the art [was] a life-changing opportunity,” Monreal said.
Emily Wegner '14
Fulbright to Turkey
Emily Wenger ‘14, a double major in English and creative writing and theatre, earned a Fulbright Award to teach English in Turkey. Wenger was part of the Fulbright-Turkish Higher Education Council English Teaching Assistantship Program. While in Turkey, she also studied theater and writing, including the work of Turkish playwright and novelist Adalet Ağaoğlu. “I have always been intrigued by the culture and the religions of Turkey,” she said. “After discovering Adalet Ağaoğlu, I became interested in the literature and theater culture, as well.”
Erinn Voas '15
Boren Scholarship to Jordan
Erinn Voas ’15, a double major in history and international relations, spent her junior year studying Arabic at the University of Jordan thanks in part to a $20,000 Boren Scholarship. In Jordan, she was one of a few hundred American students studying at the country’s universities. She’s convinced that Jordan is the best place to study Arabic and Arabic culture right now. In addition to its central location, the people were uniformly welcoming to her, and understanding that she’s still learning the language. Her skills with Arabic increased immensely after a semester in Jordan, but, she said, there was still more to learn. During the second semester she completed a 10-hour per week internship, which gave her opportunities to hone her language proficiency in a work setting. “At the end of the semester, it hit me that my work wasn’t done yet,” she said. “I’m so thankful I could go back.” Voas hopes to eventually find work with the U.S. State Department. “The hard part is getting hired,” she said. “Other Boren alumni told me the scholarship program is a big benefit.”