Four recent alumni of Kalamazoo College are receiving one of the highest honors the federal government provides in regard to scholarship and international exchange, as selectees for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Rebecca Chan ’22, Libby Burton ’22, Matthew Flotemersch ’20 and Kiernan Dean-Hall ’22 are among about 1,900 students, artists and young professionals who will represent the U.S. in about 140 countries for one academic year.
Chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential, students and recent alumni participate in the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program, which places English-teaching assistants in primary and secondary schools or universities overseas.
Associate Professor of Biology Santiago Salinas will also represent K through Fulbright this year, as a U.S. Scholar Program selectee in Argentina.
Since its inception in 1946, Fulbright has provided more than 380,000 participants with opportunities to exchange ideas and contribute to solutions to shared international concerns. The program is funded by an annual appropriation from Congress to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and managed through the U.S. Department of State.
K consistently has been identified in recent years as one of the country’s top-producing Fulbright small colleges. Here’s what K’s representatives plan to do abroad.
Rebecca Chan ’22
Chan, a theatre arts major at K, finished her degree requirements in winter 2022, allowing her to study abroad in Strabourg, France, this spring. As a Fulbright scholar, she will visit Taiwan.
“I was interested in Taiwan specifically because my paternal grandfather spent some years on the island as he left mainland China in the 1940s and later came to America,” Chan said. “Some of his siblings stayed in Taiwan and raised their families there, so at every family reunion, we discuss Taiwanese history, culture and politics. I’m interested in experiencing Taiwan for myself and connecting with my East Asian heritage.”
Chan will make her language skills her primary focus while she’s overseas.
“I took two years of Mandarin Chinese at K, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to use that language abroad,” she said. “I’d also like to better understand Taiwan’s complex history of colonization by various European and Asian nations. Because of my family’s history, I have received only a very one-sided account of the relationship between Taiwan and China and the debate over Taiwanese independence. Being there, talking to locals, and working in the schools will give me a much richer understanding of Taiwanese identity.”
Libby Burton ’22
Burton participated in study abroad as a senior in Erlangen, Germany, and will return to Germany as a Fulbright scholar, seeking an opportunity share her knowledge of philosophy and the humanities.
“The Fulbright will be a wonderful way for me to gain experience in the field and prepare me for graduate programs,” Burton said. “I also have a particular interest in German philosophy, so studying German has helped my understanding of the books I read. The program makes sense for me because I can practice German, deepen my understanding in my fields of interest, and gain experience as an educator.”
Matthew Flotemersch ’20
Flotemersch, a German major and philosophy minor at K, had a formative year of study abroad in Erlangen, Germany, in 2019 and was accepted into Fulbright’s English Teaching Assistant program in Hamburg, Germany, in 2020.
The Hamburg program was pushed back a year because of COVID-19, yet still provided a positive experience he finished this spring, leading to yet another opportunity as he will represent the U.S. this year in Innsbruck, Austria.
Flotemersch said he hopes to adjust to regional dialects, explore the country by train, ski and settle on a graduate program he will begin in 2023 while he’s in Austria.
Kiernan Dean-Hall ’22
Dean-Hall—a chemistry and German major, and physics and philosophy minor with a concentration in film and media studies—was among the K seniors who studied abroad in Erlangen, Germany, for the fall 2021 and winter 2022 terms. He will return to Germany on a Fulbright in the English Teaching Assistantship program.
“I sought a Fulbright because it sounded interesting, and like a good opportunity to broaden my horizons,” Dean-Hall said. “I expect to benefit from the lived experience of cultural exchange.”