Fulbright winners to spend next academic year in South Korea

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Hattie Blair. Photo courtesy of DePauw University

 

While several know that DePauw is one of the top producers of Fulbright Award winners, several may not know what the next step is for those winners. For seniors Hattie Blair, an English Writing major, and Madeline Hawk, an English Literature major, winning the award was step one.

This summer, the two women will travel to South Korea and teach English for the following academic year.

According to DePauw's website, the Fulbright Program “operates in more than 160 countries worldwide and has provided approximately 360,000 participants with the opportunity to study, teach or conduct research in each others’ countries and exchange ideas."

Blair’s interest in Fulbright began her junior year while she worked for Professor Marion McInnes' Fulbright workshop, peer tutoring and consulting applicants.

“I was completely over my head in trying to help so many qualified applicants distill their lives into single-paged statements,” Blair said, “but likewise learned a lot a long the way.”

She figured, from the knowledge that she acquired regarding general applications and the Fulbright program itself, that she should at least apply. And lo and behold, she won.

But the Fulbright program had been on Hawk's radar since her sophomore year. In high school, Hawk had experience teaching English to her refugee foster siblings, as well as teaching English to refugees over the summer.

“The program is designed to foster cultural exchange, so they encourage teaching the American culture along with the English language,” said Hawk. “I’ve had experience teaching English as a second language, and it was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever had. So I think that really prompted me to want to do it again.”

Because Blair is an English Writing major, she said that, like most of her peers with the same major, she has loved reading and writing since she was a child. However, not only was this a love of reading and writing, but also a love a language.

For two summers, Blair worked as a teaching assistant for the Summer English Immersion Institute, where she worked with incoming international freshmen. This experience, she said, convinced her that the classroom setting in which she could express her love of language was the most fulfilling task she could complete.

“I want to teach English because I’ve seen the way language not only helps build bridges across cultures, but can be a source of empowerment, even for those who speak it as a second language,” Blair said.

When it came to choosing South Korea, Blair had two reasons: the first was that she felt she had experience with these student groups on campus, due to DePauw’s majority pull of international students from Asia.

“I was eager to reciprocate the brave journey my own peers have taken in coming to DePauw,” Blair said. “That is, they were willing to tackle culture shock and language barriers to have this experience in the States. If they can make that sacrifice, then I, too, should be willing to risk the same.”

Blair did not hesitate to admit her nerves for this experience, but she did not conceal her excitement to make South Korea her new home, either.

“College has taught me that you can put down your roots anywhere if you choose, and my goal is to bond as much with my host country as possible,” she said.

Hawk chose the country because of her Korean roots and her past experience in the country.

“I spent a summer in Korea researching hangul [the Korean alphabet] street signs, and after I left, I knew I was going to do anything to go back,” she said.

Hawk especially looks forward to her future fluency in Korean, as well as the opportunity to travel around Asia, though she is a bit nervous.

“I have a lot of family that is Korean that I have a real language barrier with, and it will be such a relief to finally be able to communicate with my family,” she said. “I’ve travelled abroad on three separate occasions in my life, and the fear of moving away and being on your own in a different country never really leaves you.”

Blair recognized that her students will play a large role in her immersion into South Korean culture, and she is very excited to meet them.

“I trust that if I can just make the leap and get on that plane, being a Fulbright scholar will change my life in wonderful ways,” she said.

The official start date of the women’s journey is July 10; however, Hawk hopes to arrive as early as June to connect with her mother’s family that she hasn’t seen since her mother immigrated to America.

“Hopefully, I’ll get to see the village my family is from," Hawk said, "and meet some family and see some family members that live in Korea again."