Senéad Short, who will receive a BA in international studies from the University of Iowa this May, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Taiwan for 2020-21
Hometown: Iowa City, IA
Award: 2020-21 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Taiwan
Degree: BA in international studies (focus in international human rights and development), minor in French
Senéad Short's award represents the University of Iowa's 7th year in a row of having a student in Taiwan.
Could you give me a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
As an ETA to Taiwan, I will be teaching English in an elementary or junior high school. Additionally, I plan to offer dance and art lessons to children within the community.
What drew you to this field of study?
Teaching has always been a part of my life, from Sunday school to summer camps to ESL, and to my year in Lebanon (2018-2019) after I graduated from Iowa, engaging in PMER (planning, monitoring, evaluation, and reporting) training workshops with my organization's (Mennonite Central Committee) local partners from both Lebanon and Syria. Most recently, though, I was an English language teacher at a private after-school language institute (York English) in Fuzhou, China, for the academic year 2019-20. In this capacity, I taught children from three to fifteen years old. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, I returned to the States in February but still continue teaching my Chinese students via our online platform. My hours are quite strange, but I love that I can continue to see and teach my students whom I've gotten to know so well since I first met them in October. Based on my experiences it was a natural fit for me to apply for an ETA.
As for Taiwan, I first learned about the country through a Taiwanese-American friend of mine who was a fellow student at the UI. From there, through independent research, I became fascinated by its history, films, stories, culture, and modern-day, liberal society, and so sought to learn more. I decided to take a semester of Chinese at the UI, hoping to discover more about the culture through its language. And then, this last year teaching in China provided me an opportunity to improve my Chinese and learn about a country that is linked and yet very different from Taiwan in its governance and societal structure.
How do you envision this will influence your future career?
I know this experience will challenge my way of thinking, create a more nuanced picture of Taiwan in the region, and allow me to make lasting friendships with locals and foreigners. In addition, the opportunity of volunteering at the American Institute in Kaohsiung will provide an on-the-ground look at foreign diplomacy. All these factors will aide me when I return to the States and attend graduate school in international affairs with a focus on international conflict resolution.
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright?
Beyond the obvious advice of getting in contact with Karen Wachsmuth as soon as possible and writing and rewriting your essays until you can't look at them anymore, I recommend pushing yourself to get involved in your communities, in whatever shape they take, being curious, reading everything you can get your hands-on, and engaging in opportunities which allow you to explore the outside world. It may seem difficult at first to learn more about the world while in Iowa City, but in fact, there are many opportunities. For me that meant, ESL tutoring, attending lectures at the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council, joining Global Buddies and attending events put on by other international student organizations. These experiences opened the door for me to learn from and dialogue with people from other countries and cultures. Lastly, my abroad experiences in France, Lebanon, and China have been foundational to my understanding of the world and my personal and professional development. Thus, for me actually living, working, and studying abroad was invaluable.
Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
Most certainly, yes. Firstly, I'd like to thank Karen for her support throughout and pushing me to find the source of my 'why'. Secondly, I'm very grateful to my recommenders, Ambassador McMullen for his wonderful classes and wise advice, Professor Zmolek and his thoughtful guidance, and Zack Zook, who always saw the best in me. Of course, I'd also like to thank Titus who catalyzed my interest in Taiwan and brought a personal perspective to the country. Lastly, I'm immensely grateful to all those friends and family members who supported me along the way.
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).