Kyler Johnson, who will receive a BA in English & creative writing from the University of Iowa in May 2023, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Brazil for 2023-24.
Hometown: West Des Moines, Iowa
Degree: BA, English & creative writing; French, Portuguese, Chinese, and translation for global literacy minors
Could you give me a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
Throughout my time in Brazil, I will be an English Teaching Assistant at a university in the country that has yet to be determined. Alongside my principal duties, I will also be working on two side projects relating to the establishment of a writing center and a publication featuring student writing, art, and translation. Both of these projects are related to experiences I have had while at the University of Iowa, being both a UI Writing Center undergraduate tutor for the past two years and the president of the Translate Iowa Project, a student organization, for the past three years, and producing an annual literary magazine entitled Boundless.
How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
One of the core aspects of my identity is that of a writer. Travel, teaching, and the prospect of meeting a multitude of new people throughout the Fulbright process will only offer me more to ponder and consider in my nonfiction, poetry, and fiction writing.
More specifically, I intend to also attend graduate school following the Fulbright in hopes of one day becoming both a literary translator working from Portuguese and a professor. My goal with the work I do is to bring people into contact with new cultures, languages, and perspectives in whatever courses I would instruct and projects I would undertake. I wish to continue the legacy of the professors and mentors who have helped me explore the world from Iowa City throughout the past four years, opening minds to the complex ways of the world as my own was. Through Fulbright, I can only see an infinite possibility of experiences to be had and to be shared upon return, building bridges of understanding between the people of the United States and those of Brazil.
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright?
Start asking questions early! Even if it's just the smallest thread of curiosity that makes you interested, asking folks at International Programs, professors, and, most importantly, yourself: What countries intrigue you? What course work or jobs could you try out in order to garner applicable experience? What ways do you see yourself relating to the communities you live in? In a new community, what specific skills do you want to bring in order to make meaningful impact?
While it's not necessary to have everything figured out instantaneously, the sooner you start exploring your interests and the ways you see yourself connecting into the world, the more time you allow yourself to explore, experiment, and develop yourself into a skilled person that's confident and ready to tackle not just a Fulbright, but life after college—whatever path that may turn into.
Were there experiences at the UI that inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?
While I had heard about and been interested by Fulbright since my first year, it was my time spent in classes instructed by professors like Dr. Cris Lira, Dr. Anny Curtius, and all my instructors in the Chinese department who made me time and time again learn things about various cultures of the world that left me curious and eager to engage internationally.
It also certainly helped to apply for, secure, and experience Brazil through a Critical Language Scholarship, bettering my language and cultural understanding prior to applying for the more extended period of a Fulbright ETA Grant to the same place.
Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
Again, I have to thank Dr. Cris Lira, who is now at the University of Georgia Athens, for getting me involved with and passionate about Portuguese and the wider Portuguese-speaking world through her dynamic pedagogy and endless energy; as one of my recommenders, I always felt her encouragement from afar throughout this process even being at a different institution.
Carol Severino, the director of the UI Writing Center, as another recommender and supervisor for both my job as an undergraduate tutor and Honors Writing Fellow has left me an infinitely better teacher and instructor of writing, and her guidance has thus left me all the more confident in my capacity to instruct through the Fulbright program.
My final recommender, Azubeze Uzoma, who was my former supervisor at Mayflower Hall, also deserves a shout-out for his commitment and constant positivity throughout my time as a resident assistant, as well as afterwards as both he and I advanced into new roles following our time working together.
I have to certainly thank both Karen Wachsmuth and Ari Natarina at International Programs for their consistent pushing of my application and guidance through the Fulbright process. While busy trying to manage 10,000 other things and other students, the structure, advice, and feedback they provided helped me keep pushing through to make new progress.
Finally, all my friends, professors, and folks I haven't yet mentioned who have offered me both small and large pieces of encouragement as I endeavored through the application process and subsequent waiting game, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your confidence and support. At the end of four years, it is fruitful to know how large my community has grown to be here at Iowa.
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