Mastura Ibnat, who will receive a BA in English and international studies from the University of Iowa in May 2022, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Taiwan for 2022-23.
Hometown: West Des Moines, Iowa
Award: 2022-23 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Taiwan
Degree: BA, English/creative writing, international studies
Could you give us a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
I will be an English teaching assistant at the elementary or middle school level in Taiwan. For my supplementary project, I will be facilitating a book club with a focus on children’s literature featuring different cultures and stories from around the world, such as Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and Frida by Jonah Winter. These book club sessions will culminate in a final artistic project where students will integrate their English language learning with their own creative interests, such as writing their own picture book, creating an art piece, or acting in a performance.
What drew you to this field of study?
I took four years of Mandarin Chinese classes at my high school which really jumpstarted my interest in Chinese and Taiwanese culture. I’m also a native Bengali speaker and took Arabic classes for several years at my local masjid (mosque) growing up. Having access to such different (and difficult) languages opened my eyes to the nuances in verbal and written communication, which had a huge part in my decision to pursue English/creative writing and international studies as my areas of study in college.
Because of my majors, I was able to study Taiwanese culture in a way that opened my eyes to the complex nature of the country’s history, politics, and globalization and its unique relationship with the written word. I truly believe that literature, cinema, and art are at the helm of cross-cultural understanding and it is imperative that people pursue language learning passionately in order to access this level of understanding.
"The ability to build mutual trust and understanding with people is of paramount importance not just in terms of diplomacy and social networks, but for one’s own personal development as well."
How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
I hope this opportunity will encourage me to fully immerse myself in the literary world and bring light to the importance of language learning in the pursuit of understanding myself, and more importantly, the people around me. The ability to build mutual trust and understanding with people is of paramount importance not just in terms of diplomacy and social networks, but for one’s own personal development as well.
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright? or What experiences at the UI inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?
Just do it. Seriously. The process is hard, it might make you cry, and it will make you doubt yourself, but nothing good comes easily.
Also, please, please listen to the advice you receive from Dr. Karen Wachsmuth and your other advisors because it’s clear they will do everything to make sure you have the best possible chance of receiving this award. Remind yourself that criticism from those looking over your essays isn’t an indicator of your intelligence or worth, it’s an expressed belief that you can do better. Having access to the innumerable resources that the university provides for Fulbright applicants vastly increases your chances of getting it, so just start the application—every second you doubt yourself is a second wasted.
Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Karen Wachsmuth for her support in this application process—this award would have remained a dream without her constant encouragement. I’d also like to thank my recommenders Dr. Claire Fox, John D’Agata, and Linda Pyrah for their time, effort, and belief in my application. It is impossible to express how appreciative I am for their involvement in this. Of course, I’d love to thank my language evaluator Yuan Lu, Fulbright Assistant Ari Natarina, and UI Fulbright alumna Sylvia Dean for spending so much of their time looking over my statements. Lastly, I must thank my friends and family for their everlasting support and for helping me become a person that could receive such an incredible award. Without any of these people, I truly don’t think this opportunity would have been possible and I am endlessly thankful for them all.
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).