Cameron Keomanivong, who received a BS in neuroscience from the University of Iowa in May 2020, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Laos for 2020-21
Hometown: Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
Award: 2020-21 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Laos
Degree: BS in neuroscience, public health certificate
Could you give me a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
I will be teaching English at a secondary or post-secondary institution in Laos, where I plan to use the skills I have learned while tutoring English with Iowa City Compassion, a refugee assistance organization. Outside of teaching, I will engage with the Laotian community by coordinating a youth soccer club and participating in local kataw (kick volleyball) games and tournaments.
What drew you to this field of study?
When I came to the University of Iowa, I just knew I wanted to pursue a major that focused on the brain. My grandmother, who came to America from Laos in 1980, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when I was in high school, and it was very difficult seeing her cognition deteriorate. Helping her navigate the life she had been leading sparked my curiosity of the mind and perception, so I found neuroscience to be the perfect fit for me.
How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
After my time with Fulbright, I plan on applying to medical school. With the experiences I gain in Laos, I hope to further develop my ability to understand and communicate across cultural differences, which is an important barrier to consider in medicine. On a personal level, I believe my time in Laos will help me explore my family’s heritage which will enrich my sense of self.
"The Fulbright process allowed me to do a thorough introspection that helped me realize what I want to do with my life and why I want to do it."
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright?
I won’t sugarcoat it; the process of applying and interviewing for Fulbright was quite an intimidating task. However, it was a rewarding journey. Working with the Fulbright team, I was able to acquire the skills to write a solid application, which is highly relevant in continuing my education. Most importantly, the Fulbright process allowed me to do a thorough introspection that helped me realize what I want to do with my life and why I want to do it. Even though it’s a daunting application, I assure you that you will come out on the other side as a better and more enlightened person. So just dive into it, learn more about yourself, and show the reviewing committees what you learned and why you are passionate about pursuing this grant!
What experiences at the UI inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?
My Chinese history class opened me up to the Chinese community we have on campus. I learned more about Chinese culture through my classmates and the events, like the Mid-Autumn Festival, that is held here. It was amazing being able to learn about my classmates and the kinds of traditions they have! It didn’t stop there though. Through Iowa City Compassion, not only did I teach my students, but I was able to have really insightful conversations about their lifestyles and beliefs. Fulbright sets the stage for these types of intercultural communication because you ultimately become a cultural ambassador in another country, which drew me to the program.
Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
First off, I would like to thank Karen Wachsmuth, Marie Hoppe, and the rest of the Fulbright team. They devoted so much time to help everyone in their applications and gave incredibly valuable feedback. I would also like to thank Nandakumar Narayanan, Kathryn Ganz, and Benjamin Staniforth for being incredible recommenders. Lastly, I would like to thank all of my family and friends that have supported me along the way. Without any of these people and their encouragement, I would not have been able to do this!
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).