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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

Pitt students and alumni win Fulbright awards

A+passport+sits+in+front+of+a+world+map.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
A passport sits in front of a world map.

Fourteen Pitt students and alumni received Fulbright awards for the 2024-25 academic year.

The Fulbright Program aims to create stronger cultural ties between U.S. citizens and other countries by funding teaching, research and graduate positions abroad. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs named Pitt a Fulbright Top Producing Institution for the 2023-24 academic year, a recognition Pitt has earned nine times since the 2013-14 cycle.

Lily Wilson, who recently graduated with degrees in both history and German, won a Fulbright to teach English in Germany.

“I’m mostly interested in gaining experience in teaching and seeing what that’s like being in a classroom,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of like a little rehearsal for me to get that experience.” 

Wilson will move to Germany in September and will stay for ten months. She said she first became interested in the Fulbright program after a Zoom info session through the Frederick Honors College, and that since then she’s been working toward that goal.

“I thought at the time that was going to be the only way I could get to Germany because I have studied German since I was about 13. I majored in it at Pitt, and I really desperately wanted to study in Germany,” Wilson said. 

Wilson said she began the application process last summer by participating in weekly writing sessions hosted through the honors college that allowed Fulbright applicants to workshop their drafts.

“I think all together I worked on the actual application about four or five months before I submitted it with multiple drafts, multiple revisions, but it was definitely worth it,” Wilson said.

In addition to teaching English, she said she plans to do an oral history project with her students to “learn more about the community and the history there.”

“I think that’s what’s special about Fulbright is that you’re placed in a community for 10 months, so you get to interact with the children in the schools, but they also give you enough time to explore and to also have a job if you want or attend university and take classes,” Wilson said.

Ebonee Rice-Nguyen, a senior majoring in English writing and minoring in English literature and gender, sexuality and women’s studies, was awarded a Fulbright to teach English in South Korea. Her application process was considerably shorter than Wilson’s since she decided to apply “kind of late to the game.”

“I decided to apply around September, like a month before the deadline,” Rice-Nguyen said. “I was considering it, but I think what made me finally decide was my professor Michael Myers really advocated for the Fulbright Program, kind of pushing me to send an application.”

Rice-Nguyen said the shorter application deadline was “very stressful.”

“I don’t recommend that, but it all worked out, so I’m happy,” Rice-Nguyen said.

She said she applied to Fulbright to “give [herself] time to think about [grad school]” in addition to travel and to “have some new experiences.”

Rice-Nguyen does not speak Korean. She said her connection to the country is her research based on a South Korean artist, which she plans to continue working on during her Fulbright. She said she plans to take a Korean language course and spend time researching the country before moving there.

”It’s going to be a culture shock either way,” Rice-Nguyen said.

Lesha Greene, director of national scholarships and post-graduation success, is the Fulbright program advisor at Pitt and serves as “the contact between Fulbright and the applicant throughout the process.”

“We do a lot of recruiting just to make students aware of the opportunity and the different tracks,” Greene said. “People sometimes think ‘Oh, you have to have a 4.0 [GPA] and be doing all these things to be a good fit for the Fulbright, and that’s not the case.”

Students can apply for Fulbright either “at large” or through their institution. Greene said applications through institutions “tend to be stronger” because of the resources and support provided by the university. 

“Anyone who is going through the process can meet with me or someone on my team and they can get feedback on any and all of their draft essays,” Greene said. “We can talk about who would be best for their recommendation letters and help them prep their recommenders. If they are interested in Fulbright, but not sure which country, then we also guide them through that decision.”

Beyond individual advising, the Office of National Scholarships also has a Canvas resource page for Fulbright applicants and offers summer workshops that teach applicants how to write the two main components of the Fulbright application — the personal statement and the statement of grant purpose.

“[The writing workshops] build a community of support for those applying, then the Canvas page is a static resource,” Greene said.

Wilson said Greene was “a huge part of [her] getting this scholarship.”

“She is just so helpful with your essays, because if you look at where my essay started versus where it ended up they’re completely different,” Wilson said. “She knows the prompts for the essays very well, and she’s able to guide you towards improvements.”

Rice-Nguyen similarly credited a lot of her success to Greene and the Office of National Scholarships.

“I came in there a month before the deadline, and I was like, ‘I think I want to do this’ and she said, ‘Okay, a little late,’ but she was very very accepting and very helpful with feedback,” Rice-Nguyen said.

In addition to the support from Greene and the Office of National Scholarships, Rice-Nguyen said that strong relationships created with professors contribute to why students at Pitt have seen success applying for the Fulbright.

“I think that creates a really good learning community where students thrive off of that, and I think that comes through in the application a lot, genuine passion for research and scholarship and exploration of other cultures,” Rice-Nguyen said.