Each year the Fulbright Program provides grants to American citizens to study, teach or research abroad. It’s a prestigious program designed to bridge cultural gaps between the people of the United States and other countries.
This year, 24 Penn students and alumni were given awards through the program, with 20 recipients eventually going on to accept the award. The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke to some of these students to learn about what they’re doing with their grant.
2017 College graduate Sophie Litwin applied for a Fulbright award after her experience with the Penn International Internship Program and was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award to teach in Mexico.
After her sophomore year, Sophie interned with Ashoka, a social entrepreneurship program, in Mexico through the IIP. Litwin recalled that she “fell in love with Mexican culture” and that the IIP “gave me a broader perspective on my Penn experience."
Litwin credits her extracurricular as well as academic experiences at Penn as one of the reasons she applied for the program.
As the community outreach director for the Penn Art club she taught art to students in West Philly, “saw how art could help improve children’s wellbeing” and now hopes to incorporate that through a psycho-educational workshop that she’ll run in Mexico.
Litwin hopes to help break down misconceptions that Americans may have about Mexicans, and vice-versa.
2017 College graduate Jonah Rosen applied to Fulbright in order to have a chance to teach American language culture at a university in Novosibirsk, Russia.
A Russian major, Rosen said that he’s “been very impressed with the very high quality of teachers” in the smaller, seminar-style classes. Rosen said these professors helped him discover his interests and motivated him to apply for Fulbright. Rosen ultimately hopes to play a similar mentorship role to the students he will be teaching in
Rosen added that Penn prepared him by exposing him to a world beyond what he knew about and that he’s excited about the opportunity to do something different and outside the box. He also said he’s looking forward to “chart a different course” from the standard route taken by most Penn students into the corporate world.
2015 College graduate Jesus Fuentes applied to Fulbright in order to explore his own culture and background. Although he will primarily be teaching English, Fuentes will also be pursuing a research project on community medicine.
Fuentes said the Latino cultural center on campus, La Casa Latina, encouraged him to explore his own heritage. Fuentes explained that a lot of his Penn experience was spent exploring how to build connections across cultures; he wants to continue this work while teaching English in Mexico, and believes that this is increasingly important given the tense political climate between the two nations.
Fuentes wants to “learn as much as possible and assist the community however I can.” Although he has visited Mexico in the past, Fuentes states that he is “excited to actually live in the community”.
Fuentes' larger goal is to be a teacher and views his research in Mexico as crucial for that goal.
“When you know yourself better, that’s when you can really know others,” he said.