Whitworth was officially recognized as a top-producer of Fulbright students for 2014-15 on Feb. 12. Out of the 16 applicants for the prestigious award, six received the honor and are now acting as English Teaching Assistants around the world. Megan Hershey, the Fulbright Program advisor for Whitworth, continues to communicate with the students abroad via email, but once the students leave, she said, they are under the Fulbright Scholar Program.
“My focus now is getting the next crop of applicants ready,” Hershey said. “It is a rigorous application process.”
The next set of applicants will face difficulties and hardships while in the application process, and if they receive the award, will continue to be challenged, she said.
Allana Feltner, a Fulbright student who graduated in 2014, is now living in Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexico. She teaches English to a broad range of students that vary in age as well as socioeconomic backgrounds.
Feltner’s students also show varying degrees of motivation.
“For some, learning English is their biggest goal in life. For others, English is a punishment,” she said in an email interview. “Teaching with such diversity has enabled me to learn about the importance of class preparation. I try to plan dynamic activities that involve all students.”
Feltner not only faces challenges in the classroom, but she also had to overcome the initial shock of living in another country.
“Culture shock is a natural part of traveling. I have faced culture shock in the work environment and time orientation,” Feltner said. “However, I try to appreciate the differences between the two cultures rather than attempt to compare which culture is better or worse.”
Sondra Willmann, another Fulbright award winner and 2014 graduate, is living and teaching in Kampung Gajah, Perak, Malaysia.
“The main difficulty I have faced as an ETA is the language barrier between myself and the students,” Willmann said in an email interview.
She has noticed that many of her students are able to speak English, but are afraid to do so because they do not want to make a mistake, Willmann said. She continues to make progress with her students by playing sports and games with them as well as interacting with them inside and outside of the classroom.
“We have a motto at Fulbright Malaysia, ‘Chuck your dignity at the door,’ which I try to live by because the more wacky and crazy you are, the more the students are willing to open up to you,” she said.
Both Feltner and Willmann credit some of their perseverance to Whitworth and its professors.
The professors were incredible mentors during her time at Whitworth and have continued to mentor during her time abroad, Feltner said.
“The Education department at Whitworth helped me tremendously to prepare for my job now. The professors care deeply for you and for the students you are going to teach in the future,” Willmann said.
Feltner and Willmann distinguished themselves at home by receiving the Fulbright award, and are now striving to conduct themselves professionally while teaching abroad.
“They were exceptional students. They are all doing great work as Fulbright ETA’s and I think they represent the best of Whitworth. They are globally-minded people who are serving humanity,” Hershey said.
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