Each spring, recent graduates from the College spread out far and wide to make their mark upon the world. This year, three of them will be doing that as Fulbright award recipients.
Spanish and communication double major Camila Bailey, marine biology major James Peyla, and Spanish and international studies double major Nicki Meighan – all 2018 graduates – each applied for and received the distinction of a substantial grant from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this spring.
The Fulbright program is designed to promote international understanding and empathy between different cultures. The awards are highly competitive and include grants to support study, research or teaching overseas. Under the Fulbright scholarship, graduating seniors can go abroad for a full year.
To put this honor into context, across the U.S., thousands of individuals apply for these scholarships each year, yet very few are awarded. The College alone had 25 students apply in 2018. Of those, 11 were chosen as semifinalists. Peyla, who applied to conduct research in Australia, had to compete against 62 other applicants and only six individuals nationwide received awards.
According to Anton Vander Zee, who directs the College’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, and works closely with student applicants for numerous awards and scholarships, these Fulbright awards say a lot about the determination and caliber of students at the College.
“The continued success of our students in the Fulbright competition,” says Vander Zee, “is a sign that they are well prepared to compete and succeed on a national, even international, stage. Perhaps more important than the prestige factor that earning a Fulbright affords is the fact that these awards lead to life-changing, immersive international experiences that former recipients often view as a formative turning point in their lives. I am confident that our three recipients this year, who put tremendous effort into crafting competitive applications, will discover precisely this kind of value through their Fulbright experience.”
Peyla, who was also a Goldwater Scholar and a William Aiken Fellow while at the College, will be traveling to Australia to study the effects of ocean acidification on the Giant Australian Cuttlefish at Adelaide University. While there, Peyla says he also plans to volunteer at the Adelaide Zoo so that he can share his knowledge and interpretive skills. After returning, he intends to enroll in a Ph.D. program to specialize in the study of cephalopods.
Bailey, who is from Austin, Texas, and holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Brazil, will travel to rural Malaysia to teach English at the middle school level. Aside from teaching, she plans to start a writing class and a gardening club for students.
“I am excited to venture out to a new part of the world with a culture I have not yet experienced,” Bailey says. “I feel that experiences like this are so important in teaching us different perspectives and a new way of living. Also, the Fulbright program puts a heavy emphasis on involvement in the community both of the town and the school, and I am excited for this opportunity to expand my views on life through this immersion.”
When she returns from Malaysia after the coming year, Bailey says she hopes to work for a company focused on implementing sustainable business models. She’d like to consult with clients on how to develop environmentally friendly production methods.
“As a developing country, many large companies outsource to Malaysia where it is cheaper to build,” says Bailey. “Witnessing the environmental impacts of this, first hand, would show me the affect mass development has on the environment, especially in a country with such biodiversity as Malaysia.”
And Meighan, who studied abroad in Cuba and served an internship with the U.S. State Department in Trinidad and Tobago, will spend next year in Medellin, Colombia, teaching English at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
“I’m excited for the challenge and am so grateful for this opportunity,” says Meighan. “Ever since I studied abroad in Cuba, I’ve loved the Latin American and Caribbean region. I knew the Fulbright award would provide me with an in-depth intercultural experience here and help me become more fluent in Spanish.”
Meighan adds, “On top of that, having the opportunity to work in a university alongside professors will be a huge benefit for me in preparing for the professional world. I’ll be preparing lesson plans with professors and doing my best to share language and culture with my students, which will help me develop professional skills for whatever career path I take afterward. In addition, the Fulbright network is also an extremely valuable tool for professional connections after my time in Colombia is up.”