Three current UMass Boston students and two alumni have won prestigious international fellowships that begin this summer. Four of the winners received grants through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program; the other was awarded a Boren Fellowship.
Fulbright winner Tyler Murphy ’13, who will graduate next week with a master’s degree in English, will teach in Montenegro as part of the Fulbright program. Since graduating with his bachelor’s degree in English in 2013, Murphy has been working on his master’s and helped other students through UMass Boston’s Transitions Program, an invitation-only initiative that provides one-on-one academic advising. Murphy said he is ready for a new teaching challenge.
“I didn't have a lot of knowledge [about Montenegro] before I started the application process, but as I started to learn more, the country began to look like it matched my own path,” Murphy said. “I have been introduced to new people, ideas, concepts, and opportunities. It struck me that Montenegro seems to be going through something similar as a country and I wanted to witness this for myself.”
Murphy plans to create an online exchange with his current students at UMass Boston and his future students in Montenegro where they can write about, discuss, and share ideas.
Cat Roberts ’14 will teach English at S.S.K.V. Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Kanchipuram, India through the Fulbright program. While there, she plans to film an educational video blog with advice for people learning to speak English, based on her experiences in the classroom. Roberts holds a dual degree in English and theatre arts. This is her second trip to India, having been there twice while on tour with the play Kultar's Mime.
“I liked the ways in which my experiences in India changed me,” Roberts said. “You should always return to a place that takes you a step closer to the person you want to be.”
Alex Gordillo ’14 will teach English outside of Hanoi, Vietnam. The Fulbright winner says he wouldn’t have this opportunity without the guidance of Louise Penner, university fellowships director and professor of English, who encouraged him to apply. A language learner himself who earned his bachelor’s degree in English after transferring to UMass Boston, Gordillo says he’s honored to serve as an ambassador for the United States in a part of the world that has always intrigued him.
“I hope to make their path to learning English a bit easier,” Gordillo said of his future students. “This is so much bigger than me. This is about my ancestral legacy. I can't imagine how many people in my family could only dream of doing something like this. Teaching in Vietnam will offer me the opportunity to peek into a world that is entirely foreign to me, but may actually have a lot to teach me. In truth, I will be the student.”
Abrar Ahmed, a Quincy native and senior biology major who is also in the Honors College, will travel to Turkey. Ahmed will be exposed to a new culture in Turkey, but she has one important thing in common with the people there: her Islam faith.
“I was over the moon when I found out I had been accepted,” Ahmed said. “I knew I wanted a year off to travel and learn about different cultures, languages, and foods, however, I didn't know where to begin. I now have an organized program with which I can follow my dreams of travel.”
Kaia DeMatteo will return to Tanzania, where she studied last summer on a Fulbright-Hays fellowship, this time on a Boren Fellowship. The global inclusion and social development PhD student’s goals are to improve her Swahili skills at the advanced level and connect more deeply with the local culture. DeMatteo started learning Swahili while pursuing her master’s in cultural studies at Ohio University.
“I view language as an essential component to learning about any culture,” DeMatteo said. “It allows the opportunity to be part of the local culture and learn from people every day in the host country. Traveling has always been my best teacher, and I learn more from people while walking down the street and during everyday conversations on public transportation. To me, this is the ultimate form of language and cultural immersion outside the classroom.”
An initiative of the National Security Education Program, Boren Fellowships provide up to $24,000 in financial support to U.S. graduate students interested in studying less common languages in world regions deemed critical to U.S. interests. The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program puts awardees in schools where English is being taught and covers round-trip transportation and room and board.
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