Monday, April 3, 2023
student smiling

Katherine Kustes, who will receive a BA in social work from the University of Iowa in May 2023, is the winner of a Fulbright Community-Based Combined Award to Austria for 2023-24. This grant combines an internship, university coursework, and an English Teaching Assistantship funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Research. Kustes is the first UI student recipient of this prestigious award. 

Hometown: Bettendorf, Iowa 
Award: 2023-24 Fulbright Community-Based Combined Award to Austria 
Degree: BA, social work; resilience and trauma-informed perspectives certificate; rhetoric and persuasion minor 

Could you give us a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright? 

I will enroll at a university in Austria and pursue coursework and a community-based project while working at an Austrian secondary school part-time as an English-language teaching assistant (ETA). I will complete my community-based project at Diakonie Frauenberatung, a refugee women's counseling center in Vienna. My coursework at the University of Vienna will focus on human rights as well as asylum and migration law. Additionally, I will start a yoga club at the Austrian secondary school where I will be working as an ETA. This community-based award is unique to Fulbright Austria! 

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

My main goal is to keep my heart and mind open to new opportunities and experiences. I envision this Fulbright will allow me to build on my emotional strength and empathy skills while working with diverse populations. Additionally, I am excited to continue to strengthen my German-language skills as being bilingual has been a dream of mine. 

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

By stepping into this competitive and rigorous application process, you will have the opportunity to get clear about your goals as well as gain confidence in talking about your unique attributes and experiences. Regardless of the outcome, you will become much better equipped for any future job or graduate school application. I would recommend that future students reach out to past grantees in their award country to connect about application materials and get to know their experiences as a grantee. Another piece of advice, don't attach your self-worth to the outcome of this grant, because completing the application process is an accomplishment in and of itself. Lastly, another former Fulbright grantee once said, "Draft early and draft often," and I concur with this piece of advice! 

Were there experiences at the UI that inspired you to pursue a Fulbright? 

I fell in love with Vienna when I completed a study/internship abroad in summer 2022. It was during my summer abroad when I met with the staff at Diakonie Frauenberatung, the community organization that I will be working with during my Fulbright. I am excited to expand my knowledge of frameworks that make Austria successful in their reception and integration of refugees. I feel grateful to have been able to connect with Diakonie staff while in Austria and eager to work with refugees at Diakonie during my grant year. 

Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process? 

I feel grateful to have had a strong support system throughout this daunting process. I would like to thank Dr. Karen Wachsmuth for her constant support. She's intense, honest, and does everything she can to make sure her students succeed in this competition. Thank you to the UI Fulbright team for reviewing and helping me strengthen my application materials: Dr. Ari Natarina, Dr. Bill Reisinger, and Dr. Brenda Longfellow. Thank you to Dr. Kirsten Kumpf Baele for writing my German-language evaluation and Dr. Bruce Nottingham-Spencer for his support in my German-language development. Thank you to my recommenders: Dr. Jennifer Stone, Dr. Ingrid Kapsamer, and Teri Schnelle. 



International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.