Five Kalamazoo College representatives are receiving one of the highest honors the federal government provides in regard to scholarship and international exchange. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers fellowships for graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to teach English, perform research or study abroad for one academic year. Some of the programs are in doubt and travel availability is uncertain this year given the COVID-19 pandemic. However, K’s representatives, should their programs ranging from Austria to Vietnam be uninterrupted, include several from the classes of 2019 and 2020.
Georgie Andrews ’20, Austria
Andrews was a business and studio art major at K, where she played on the women’s soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams. She quickly became homesick when she traveled to Austria as a high school student, but her K study abroad experience in Bonn, Germany, led to her desire to travel more.
“I loved the culture and the atmosphere, and I was not homesick, which has made me feel like I could live there longer,” she said. “I think the main reason I wanted to return after study abroad was loving the public transportation, easy access to other countries, and the small grocery stores. I thought Fulbright would be a good chance to learn about myself as a teacher and also get to live in Austria or Germany again and continue to work on my German.”
Grace Beck ’19, Colombia
Beck was a biology and Spanish double major at K, where she joined the Asian Pacific Islander Student Association and Frelon, participated in World Night and Asia Fest, and volunteered as a teacher’s assistant at El Sol elementary in Kalamazoo.
“I was very lucky to have an amazing study abroad experience in Ecuador and it definitely inspired me to seek more opportunities to live abroad after college, especially in South America,” Beck said. “I’ve also had the chance to travel to Peru, and in both countries, I was blown away by the beautiful scenery and the incredibly warm and friendly people I met. I decided to apply for the Fulbright in Colombia because I wanted to explore another country in South America.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Fulbright to cancel the program in Colombia, but Beck hopes to return to Spain this fall, where she was an English assistant this past school year in Murcia, Spain.
“My students were at times chaotic, but extremely eager to learn English and about where I came from,” Beck said. “Every time I said ‘Michigan,’ they heard ‘Mexico.’ When the lockdown started in mid-March, everyone in Spain had to stay inside for nearly 50 days, and my school asked for my help with online lessons. I chatted with my students about various topics and even played games like Bingo with them on Zoom. It was a strange but fun year and I’m looking forward to moving to Madrid in the fall if travel is possible. I still hope to get to Colombia one day, too, when this is all over.”
Paige Chung ’20, Vietnam
Chung double majored in critical ethnic studies and English with a creative writing focus at K, where she worked in the Writing Center, Intercultural Center and Residential Life. She also participated in the Chinese Lion Dance Troupe and tried swimming, tae kwon do, K du Soleil and the improvisation group Monkapult.
“I chose K because I wanted to be far away from home,” Chung said. “I fell in love with the brick road and the tight knit community when I came to visit. It also helps that they offer competitive financial aid packages.”
Chung said she is thrilled to visit Vietnam as a member of the Vietnamese diaspora.
“I plan to eat food all the time,” she said. “Vietnam is abundant with flavors, textures and smells. I love my people’s food more than anything. I also plan to practice my language learning and build relationships in Vietnam.”
Brett Fitzgerald ’19, Moldova
His study abroad experience in Strasbourg, France, included volunteering at the AGORAé at the University of Strasbourg, an organization providing discount food and a social environment to low-income college students. An Elton W. Ham Grant, provided by K’s Political Science Department, and later allowed Fitzgerald to study child poverty in Romania.
“I jumped at the opportunity to teach English in Moldova through the Fulbright program not only because of its fascinating history and intercultural population, but also because the experience I gained through my Ham grant,” Fitzgerald said. “If it weren’t for the College’s support in allowing me the opportunity to study elements of my SIP in Romania, and thereby gaining a greater connection to education abroad and its impacts on shaping future generations in the region, I may not have even applied to the Fulbright in Moldova.”
In Moldova, he hopes to volunteer with a nongovernmental organization, expand his musical interests, speak at conferences and universities, and work on his language skills.
Fitzgerald credits Jessica Fowle ’00 and Anne Dueweke ’84, who have been K’s directors of grants, fellowships and research during his application process, for providing the guidance that have led to his opportunity.
Matthew Flotemersch ’20, Germany
During his time at K, Flotemersch — a German studies major and philosophy minor — played on the men’s soccer team, acted through the Festival Playhouse, participated in Monkapult, and had a study abroad experience in Erlangen, Germany.
“My last week of study abroad was hectic,” he said. “Between packing, planning, goodbyes and everything else, I never really had a moment to just reflect on everything that I had done there in a year, everything that I had experienced. When my train pulled away from Erlangen for the last time, though, all the memories and feelings flooded back to me. With them came the realization that I had to return, through Fulbright or otherwise.”
When he returns to Germany through Fulbright, he will teach at a school in Hamburg.
“I can’t emphasize enough how excited I am to immerse myself in the culture and language again; this time, though, with a year of experience in Germany and another year of language courses at K under my belt,” Flotemersch said. “Any student abroad wants to take time to travel and explore, and of course I want to do more of that, but with my Fulbright year I want to be more active in my local community.”
Avila Selected as Alternate
A sixth K representative, Juan Avila ’19, has been named a Fulbright alternate. He could be selected to serve the program in Andorra should additional funds or an additional place become available.
Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 380,000 participants, chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential, with opportunities to exchange ideas and contribute to solutions to shared international concerns. K consistently has been identified in recent years as one of the country’s top-producing Fulbright small colleges. Top-producing institutions are highlighted annually in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 fields of study are offered Fulbright awards each year in more than 140 countries throughout the world. The program, funded by an annual appropriation from Congress to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is managed through the U.S. Department of State.