Recent Honors College Alumni Make Global Impact as Fulbright Grantees

October 25, 2022

This year was a record-breaking year for prestigious international scholarships at Baylor with 14 students – eight of which were Honors College students - receiving Fulbright scholarships. Five of our recent alumni share about their experience abroad so far as Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETA), and how the Honors College helped equip them for the journey ahead.

Ashlyn Freemeyer | Fulbright ETA to Bulgaria

“I was drawn to apply for Fulbright because I was interested in cultural exchange and teaching English. Bulgaria specifically interested me because of its history and language, and so far, the Fulbright program has exceeded my expectations. It has been fun and challenging adjusting to a new country.

Day-to-day, I teach English language and literature. This entails teaching from textbooks and creating my own lesson plans. I also spend my afternoons reading and working in my small town. Once or twice a week, I meet with students to discuss American culture and get to know more about Bulgaria.

I’m so grateful for my time in the Honors College because of the communication skills I gained through conversations in class and the writing assignments. Communication has been vital to my success in the classroom and my relationships with my colleagues. I also took advantage of the study abroad opportunities during my time at Baylor. I studied Great Texts in Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece which exposed me to new ideas and places.”

Courtney Haubert | Fulbright ETA to Bulgaria

“I love my life here in Bulgaria. Every week, I teach 17 eighth through twelfth grade English classes, each with about 23 students. It can be exhausting and overwhelming, but the heart of being an ETA is creating a space for students to feel safe, capable, and confident enough to try something new and make mistakes, so most of the work is making sure I'm equipped to be gentle and fully present with them.

Outside of the classroom, I get to spend my time exploring Bulgaria and learning more about the culture, which means lots of beauty, great food, and dancing horo (Bulgarian folk dance)! As an Eastern Orthodox Christian in a traditionally Orthodox country, I am also very blessed to have a little piece of home with me everywhere I go that gives me a point of connection in my community beyond our generational and linguistic barriers. Daily life for the average Bulgarian is often difficult, and I am amazed by the resilience, generosity, and sincerity I see from the Bulgarian people— it is a great honor each time I am invited into their perspective.

I am very grateful for my time in the Honors College, and I credit my success to the encouragement and dedication of my professors and mentors. They believed and invested in me from the start, preparing me to succeed through both practical experience and meaningful education. My BIC courses— particularly the World Cultures sequence— helped me develop a nuanced and multifaceted perspective on global history and diplomacy, which is crucial to being an effective cross-cultural ambassador. I cannot thank the faculty and staff enough for their investment in my life. Their support made all the difference.”

Andy Kim | Fulbright ETA to Taiwan

“The past few weeks in Taiwan have been nothing short of life-altering. Being immersed in a new culture and language has been extremely growth-conducive and has allowed me to connect with people that I would have never gotten to know otherwise. A typical weekday consists of me teaching 3-4 English classes at my junior high school, along with tutoring or faculty meetings. Before coming here, I had no prior experience with the Taiwanese culture nor the Mandarin language. Now, I have been able to speak beginner-intermediate Mandarin while interacting with the residents.

My time in the Honors College was heavily focused on the pre-med track; however, one skill that I have found helpful has been keeping an open mind to different cultural experiences. When you meet people in a different country across the world, there are bound to be differences in values and ideals. Some traditions can come off as shocking, but it is the responsibility of the foreigner to respect these appropriately. The courses I took as a University Scholar were helpful in exposing me to texts covering various cultures, which served as preparation for my Fulbright application linguistically and culturally.”

Camille Watson | Fulbright ETA to Azerbaijan

“Truthfully, I applied for Fulbright just to see if I could do it. Throughout the application process though, it began to hit me just how unique and amazing an opportunity the Fulbright is. It requires part-time work and community service/engagement, and it's designed with cultural immersion and acclimation in mind, which is what I love.

When I boarded my plane to Baku, I didn't know what level of English I'd be teaching, how many students I'd have, how many classes I'd be teaching, or when I would start teaching. I didn't even have an apartment yet. I didn't know what to expect, but the level of support I received upon arrival certainly exceeded any expectations I could have had. As soon as my plane landed, I felt like I stepped into a strong support network between the embassy, my university, and my fellow Fulbright Scholars, which has been a true blessing.

The three key things I learned in the Honors College that have strongly applied to my Fulbright have been flexibility, responsibility, and self-confidence. Designing my four-year plan required flexibility when classes or opportunities fell through. This, and taking advanced classes early-on taught me responsibility for my education. It also taught me self-confidence to just be brave enough to try new things that might be out of my league. These have all applied to my Fulbright experience. Plans here change frequently, especially because I answer to two huge entities (the embassy and my university), so flexibility is a must. Responsibility is essential in running my own classroom, especially because I design my own curriculum and my own lesson plans, and I'm teaching independently. This is the same reason self-confidence is also quite necessary.”

Faith VanVleet | Fulbright ETA to Poland

“I haven’t lived in Poland long, but I feel as if I’ve been here forever. When I first learned about the Fulbright Program, I knew it was something I wanted to do! Ever since I was a child copying Chinese characters from a calligraphy book, I dreamed of learning new languages and going to new places.

At Baylor, I was a University Scholar with secondary majors in Slavic and East European Studies and International Studies, so I knew I wanted to travel to a Slavic country. My experience has been unusual in that I applied for a Fulbright as an ETA to Ukraine; however, I was transferred to Poland after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. From February to April there was a long period of silence in which I didn’t know whether my Fulbright would be cancelled, transferred to another country, or deferred. I am extremely privileged to be able to come to Poland. I chose Ukraine because I had studied Russian at Baylor and spent two months in Kyiv the summer of 2021. I was president of the Russian club at Baylor last year and helped start a Baylor Polish club too! I never imagined my Fulbright journey would end up with me in Poland, but I am happy to be here.

My Honors Program thesis prepared me immensely for my time in Poland. I wrote about the current treatment of historical Polish communist monuments. I can better understand Poland’s history, government, and current political system because of the in-depth research I conducted for my thesis project. I feel like one of the most prepared Fulbright Scholars here because of my thesis and the Honors Program’s research resources.”