Sydney DeBoer, who will receive a BA in history and secondary social studies education from the University of Iowa this May, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Czech Republic for 2020-21
Hometown: Iowa City, IA
Award: 2020-21 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Czech Republic
Degree: BA in history and BA in secondary social studies education
Could you give me a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
I will be an English Teaching Assistant for secondary students in the Czech Republic. I’ll be able to provide these students support in their English language learning and a variety of perspectives regarding American life.
What drew you to this field of study?
I’ve always seen a lot of value in being able to form narratives and come to conclusions about the past and present. At the same time, I want to provide support for students in building citizenship skills. Because of this, social studies education was the perfect path to combine my academic interests and support others’ learning. I have been training almost my whole college career to be a teacher. I had great experiences volunteering in the Iowa City Community School District—from tutoring at an after school program, being the classroom assistant during support periods, and slowly taking on being the classroom educator through practicum and student teaching. Unfortunately, my field experiences were cut slightly short due to the closure of the schools in response to COVID-19. But regardless of that fact, I have made wonderful connections with students and educators. I’d particularly like to thank Amira Nash and Anson Kritsch at West High School for having me be a part of their American Studies and ELL classrooms. I hope to return from the Czech Republic to a position in teaching here in Iowa City.
In regards to the Czech Republic, I found a rich cultural history that related to many Iowan’s national identities. I was able to expand my interests through the National Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids and independent study regarding history, politics, culture, and language. The Czech Republic became an extension of the areas of study I was already interested in.
How do you envision this will influence your future career?
This opportunity will positively impact my future career as an educator and as a well-rounded person. Iowa has a strong Czech influence that I will be able to provide a deeper context for upon my arrival back in the US. If I’m encouraging my students to view through a global but connected lens, I should expect the same of myself as well. The Fulbright is giving me the opportunity to widen mine and my students’ lens. This will also strengthen my abilities to support students in my classroom who are English language learners.
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright?
Part of being a cultural representative for the U.S. is being active in your community. I would never advocate volunteering just so it looks good on a resume. Instead, I would recommend getting involved in something that matters to you, aligns with your interests and where you would like to go. My involvement in my college departments is what really inspired me to pursue a Fulbright. I was volunteering for the history department and the College of Education, along with being active in all my classes. It was one of my history professors who recommended I apply and go to an informational meeting. From there, staying connected with my professors, advisors, and the program was one of the biggest factors in my success. Meeting with Karen Wachsmuth in International Programs and your advisors to discuss your writing and why you chose a Fulbright to a specific country can seem intimidating at first. Even so, it’s important to remember they are only there to help and want to see you succeed. In retrospect, I would keep in mind all the experience you’re gaining, there are those that support you at the University of Iowa, and how big of an opportunity the Fulbright award is.
Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
I’d like to thank Professor Matthew Noellert, who nominated me to learn more and apply. I’d also like to thank Professor Tyler Priest who recommended me and always validated my efforts. Karen Wachsmuth also really pushed me throughout this process, which I appreciate whole-heartedly.
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).