Laura McDowell, who will receive a BA in linguistics and Spanish from the University of Iowa in May 2023, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Turkey for 2023-24.
Hometown: Kalona, Iowa
Degrees: BA, linguistics (TESL emphasis) and Spanish; translation for global literacy minor
Could you give us a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA), I will primarily be teaching English classes at the university level. In my free time, I will join a hiking or cycling club to combine my love for the outdoors with the opportunity to build relationships with Turkish people.
How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
Travel will expose me to different perspectives and ways of thinking, making my mind and character stronger; this will have a positive impact on all areas of my life. Concerning future professional opportunities, I will be immersed in a different culture and language, which will make me a desirable candidate for careers that require cultural competence and multilingual skills, such as government careers. Through the Fulbright scholarship, I will teach university students. This experience, and the TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) course that ETAs are provided with, will increase my opportunities to teach English beyond the Fulbright, whether that be abroad or in the U.S.
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright?
Apply, even if it feels like a long shot! Start the application process as early as you can; you will have more time to improve your application, which will increase your chances of being selected. Different countries have different preferences concerning the major(s) of study and amount of previous teaching experience of applicants, so keep that in mind when deciding which country to apply for. When you ask professors or employers for letters of recommendation, let each of them know what aspects of your attitude, character, or abilities you would like them to highlight based on what side of you they have the most experience with. If they each focus on a different aspect of who you are, it will give the Fulbright commission a more well-rounded picture of you as a desirable candidate. Lastly, ask a qualified instructor to submit a language evaluation for you, even if your country of choice doesn't have a language requirement. Pursue a basic knowledge of the language through language learning apps and the textbook resources available through the University of Iowa Libraries.
Were there experiences at the UI that inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?
I was inspired to pursue a Fulbright by professors who had either taught English as a second language or participated in the Fulbright scholarship program themselves.
Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
First and foremost, I want to thank Jerzy Rubach, a professor of mine who first came to the U.S. from Poland through a Fulbright scholarship. He spoke of the opportunities that Fulbright gave him, and he was the one who encouraged me to apply. Additionally, I want to thank Jennifer Brown and Jeff Knowling. They enriched my understanding of the possibilities for teaching English, domestically or abroad, and they wrote kind letters of recommendation for me. I also want to thank Aron Aji, who provided a Turkish language evaluation for me despite the fact that I was at a very novice level. Finally, I need to thank Karen Wachsmuth, Ari Natarina, Kathleen Newman, and others who provided feedback on my essays; they tirelessly helped me fashion a more cohesive, competitive application.
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