GSE Students Take Off For Fulbright Grants in Taiwan
Once again, several GSE students have been awarded Fulbright grants for September 2019. Crystal Lam, a K-12 English major, and Karina Lee, a K-12 biological sciences major, will both be headed to Taiwan to fulfill their grants. The Fulbright Program is an American scholarship program of competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists, founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious awards to be given out.
Lam credits her journey to the GSE to a breakout session during Academic Planning and Advising (APA) days before her freshman year at Rutgers. “During the APA day I attended, I met Dean Matthew Winkler, who was there representing the GSE. During breakout sessions, he told us how we could earn our master’s and teaching certification in 5 years and I was really attracted to that. He was able to plant that seed early and then once I was eligible, I applied to the 5-year program and was accepted into the K-12 English teaching program,” Lam states.
Lee credits her journey to a long love of learning. “Ever since I was afforded the opportunity to teach in Taiwan for 4 weeks during my junior year of high school, I developed this love of teaching and developed a passion for helping others learn. Once I was far enough into my undergraduate career, I applied and was accepted into the K-12 biological sciences teaching program,” Lee shares.
Lam credits her choice of English as a specialization to an English teacher she had in high school. “My Adavnaced Placement (AP) Language & Literature teacher was so awesome, and even though I knew I wanted to teach, I was not entirely sure of which major I wanted to go with. SO when reflecting on the positive experience I had in that class, I decided to pursue English,” Lam says. Lee had an interest in biology since high school.
Lee states, “I did not expect myself to actually stay in the education field, so when choosing my major I went with the topic that most interested me in high school, which was biology. Once I got into Rutgers and realized I could major in teaching biology, I was sold.”
Both Lam and Lee will be headed to Taiwan to fulfill the duties of their grants. Lam will be in the county of Changhua as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA), who assists the English teachers in the classroom and also acts as a cultural ambassador for the United States. Lam will assist in creating lesson plans and also planning community activities for the Elementary and Middle school children. Lee will be in Taipei teaching English to grade school children and also organizing other events to help expose children to the English language. Lee plans on arranging for her students to build a bond with an American pen-pal by employing her GSE cohort to correspond with the children to also help them learn the language and culture.
When reflecting on people at the GSE who helped them get to this point, each recipient shared similar sentiments of the amount of support and encouragement they received. Lam shares, “After meeting Dean Winkler, he was there every step of the way as I moved through my coursework, so I am very thankful to him for being there literally from day one. I also received a lot of support and encouragement from Dr. Maqueda Randall-Weeks. She not only pushed me to apply for the Fulbright, but she made herself available to me for whatever I may have needed, and I really needed that push.”
Lee reflects, “I have not had too many graduate courses, but one person who sticks out in my mind is instructor Tasha Austin. I took her Teaching Emerging Bilinguals course and she used memorable activities to get us to really understand English Language Learner (ELL) students and their experience. One activity that comes to mind when she began her lesson in another language and then asking us to take a quiz based on that. We learned that our reaction to the confusion and being vulnerable to listening to a lesson in a foreign language helps to show how bilingual learners feel in the classroom every day. I really enjoyed how she taught this class and I plan on incorporating some of her teachings into my future classes.”
While discussing the change they hope to impart in the communities they will service, both Lam and Lee shared wanting to teach English and be cultural ambassadors. Lee says, “I want to foster a sense of interest among the students to learn English. My main goal as a Fulbright scholar is to share the culture of America and that’s what I hope to do. I also believe that by simply getting to know these students, not only can I teach them what I know about America, but that they can also teach me everything they know about Taiwan.”
Lam shares, “after tutoring students at Rutgers for Expository Writing and I realized how many were international and how many needed help learning English, I realized they weren’t prepared to write these kinds of college essays. So while I am in Taiwan, I want to really be able to help these students who want to learn English as a second or third language and bring those experiences in teaching back with me to the U.S. and use that in my classroom when I am teaching ELL students.”
Upon her return, Lee plans to finish her last year of the 5-year program and is considering different options for after graduation. “I am definitely interested in pursuing a doctoral degree, but I also would not mind jumping into teaching after graduation for a few years before going back to school,” Lee shares. Lam will also complete her 5th year in the program upon return but intends to jump straight into teaching. Lam says, “I will be student teaching in Highland Park while finishing my last year of the program. I am also looking into getting involved with the AVID program back at my old high school in Edison, which is a program focused on college readiness.”
Both Lam and Lee credit some of their success to the GSE. Lam shares, “The inclusive and diverse environment at the GSE was really great because it provided a lot of different perspectives in the classroom and made it easier to have some of those more difficult conversations and also helped us to give each other new ideas and new ways of thinking about different topics.” Lee reflects, “Its’s great to be in a cohort of students who all share the same goal of improving education and making it more accessible to students from all backgrounds and also having that support as we all go through the program. It has made such a difference in my learning and I am so grateful to have these other passionate educators in my corner.”