Sunday, March 24, 2019
Sylvia Dean, who will receive a BA in Linguistics/TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) from the University of Iowa this May, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Taiwan for 2019-20

Sylvia Dean

Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa
Type of Fulbright Award: Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Taiwan
Degree: Linguistics/TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), minors Chinese and international studies

What drew you to this field of study?

I grew up right here in Iowa City and, throughout my childhood, I was influenced by both my mother's work as an ESL teacher, as well as the incredible diversity we are fortunate to observe in our Midwestern community. I studied Spanish in high school and quickly discovered the worlds that open up with second language skills. They're a benefit professionally, but also expanded my understanding of the cultures I was interacting with. When I made it to the University of Iowa, I challenged myself to continue developing those skills by studying Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, and I have found myself forging friendships with people I never would have met without the bridge of language. Deciding to formally study linguistics and foreign languages was a way to advance my studies in language and acquire the skills to help others do the same.

How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?

I plan to teach ESL upon returning to the U.S., and having the chance to teach in a different educational system is an incredible opportunity for me to broaden my perspective. I believe that for a field such as TESL, it's crucial for teachers to understand the relativity of educational systems. All across the globe, there are different standards, expectations, and rules that schools implement with their own cultural norms and values in mind. When an individual goes to another country to study, the norms in which they are operating change. After my Fulbright year, I will gain valuable insight into a distinct educational culture that will help me to understand my students on a deeper level and ensure their success.

What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright?

My biggest piece of advice for students interested in applying for a Fulbright is to be persistent, positive, and most of all, curious. I worked on my application for about two years before finally turning it in, and it was worth every minute. The amount of self-discovery I experienced throughout the process was remarkable, and learning how to organize my achievements cohesively actually helped me earn a summer internship teaching ESL in Macau. I also discovered many things about Taiwanese politics, culture, and history that I likely would not have learned otherwise. 

Are there individuals (professors, mentors, etc.) you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?  

I would like to express how grateful I am to Amy Welter, Jill Beckman, and Benjamin Hassman, three people who contributed to my success by investing valuable time and effort writing my letters of recommendation. Of course, I would also like to extend a monumental thank you to Karen Wachsmuth and Marie Synofzick, who were at my side throughout the entire application process with feedback and encouragement.


Explore the many funding opportunities open to UI students and alumni

Students are encouraged to begin their funding searches and applications at least six months to one year in advance.  Schedule an advising appointment with Karen Wachsmuth to discuss your interest in an international fellowship or begin an application (as a UI undergraduate student, graduate student, or alumna/us).