Four alumni received prestigious Fulbright grants for educational and cultural study abroad this year. They will travel around the globe: Annie Muller ’22 heads to Germany; Oscar Garcia ’22 will teach English in Taiwan; and Emma Hofman ’20 and Anna Gildea ’20 will both spend a year teaching English in South America, with Hofman in Colombia and Gildea in Brazil.
Unlike a traditional post-graduate fellowship, these alumni bring their career experiences to their year abroad. Some, like Muller, are using their grant to take the next step in their academic research. Others, like Garcia, want to use this year as a springboard into a career in education. Here is what each plan to do in their life-changing year as “Fulbrighters.”
Finding the artistry in chemical reactions
Annie Muller ’22 will spend her Fulbright year completing a master’s of art program at the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures at the University of Hamburg in Germany. As an art and chemistry double major at Colby, she spent her undergraduate years passionate about the combination of words and images in art.
“Of course, there’s studying the manuscripts themselves,” said Muller. “But what’s exciting to me is this program also includes the scientific, material analysis of them, combining art history and lab-based techniques. I’m always looking for ways to combine both of my majors, and I’m very excited about the chance to do this.”
Because of Covid-19 restrictions, Muller didn’t get a chance to study abroad. For her, this year will be a chance to pursue an exciting course of study while immersing herself in a new country before returning to work in a museum setting. “I think Colby has set me up to be successful in this program because it’s given me an open mind and confidence to pursue my interests,” she said. “I know that no matter what, if I’m learning, there’s something good happening.”
The first step to a career in international education
Oscar Garcia ‘22 will teach English in Taiwan for his Fulbright fellowship. As an education major, he’s always wanted to teach—and after a post-graduate year working as a bilingual tutor in Spanish and English, he’s ready to try the front of the classroom.
Garcia wasn’t able to study abroad because of Covid-19 restrictions, so for him, this is a way to experience a completely different pedagogical system firsthand. “I applied to figure out exactly what it is I want to do within teaching,” said Garcia. “Right now, I’m geared more toward teaching a language, whether it’s Spanish or helping bilingual students learn English. I’m excited to see a different perspective in the classroom when it comes to language acquisition. To actually be in another country and be in a completely different system, seeing what sort of methods they use, is going to be really interesting.”
He hopes that through the course of this program, he’ll gain more clarity on what a career as an educator looks like. At Colby, the emphasis on taking a global perspective with education really stuck with him. Said Garcia, “What was great about the Education Department at Colby is that whatever I learned there, I saw it in all of my other classes. It gave me the confidence to want to become a teacher.”
From paralegal to profesora
Emma Hofman ’20 will teach English in Duitama, Colombia, this year after spending the last three years as a paralegal at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition in Washington, D.C. In addition to teaching, she hopes to spend time doing social justice work with Colombia’s Venezuelan immigrant population, who come to the country fleeing violence and poverty.
“I’ve been working in immigration law for the past three years,” said Hofman. “I’ll be about three hours outside of Bogota, in a rural area where they don’t have the same kind of nonprofit structure. I’ll be teaching English, but hopefully, I’ll be able to volunteer with a social justice project as well while I’m there.”
As a global studies major with a focus on international development, she is no stranger to cultural immersion, completing a semester abroad in Argentina and two Jan Plans abroad in Costa Rica and Peru. “Everything I did at Colby lent itself to this year, from studying poverty eradication to trying to protect marginalized populations,” she said. “I’m so excited to get on the ground and jump in.”
Investing in community
Anna Gildea ’20 is spending her Fulbright year teaching English in São João del Rei, Brazil, taking a break from the fast-paced, 80-hour workweeks at global investment banking firm Goldman Sachs. “I just knew I had to come back to Brazil,” said Gildea, who spent a Jan Plan conducting research there during her senior year.
“As a global studies major, I always wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about the world. I loved working at Goldman Sachs, but I always wanted to pursue a position that would focus more on community, so I applied for a Fulbright.”
Gildea is diving headfirst into teaching in a new language—she took Spanish, not Portuguese, at Colby—and loves learning on the fly. “For the majority of students, it’s their first contact with a native English speaker,” she said. “I also guest lecture in classes on all kinds of topics, like feminist literature. I love connecting with people, and I’m excited to keep learning here.”
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