Thursday, June 13, 2024
student in gray jacket

Dawn Thomas (MAT secondary English education ‘23) was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for 2023-24. Originally set to embark on her teaching journey in Israel, unforeseen circumstances led to the cancellation of her assignment. She is now serving as an English language assistant and English art assistant for students ranging from 3 years old through those in sixth grade, who speak Spanish and Gallego, in Galicia, Spain. After finishing her Fulbright tenure and returning to the U.S., Thomas will start a new position in the English Department at Iowa City High School, where she will teach three world literature classes and two African American literature classes. Learn more about her reflections on her Fulbright experience through the Q&A piece below.   

Can you give us a brief overview of your Fulbright experience?

My Fulbright program initially began online with my original host institution in Haifa, Israel. During this period, I collaborated with the English Department at the Arab Academic College for Education to develop a six-day unit on African American literature, poetry, and music for Arab Israeli teaching students.

Since arriving in Spain, I have:

  • Led multiple daily classes focusing on English language grammar and structure.
  • Designed and taught a multi-style self-portrait art project.
  • Created and led a cultural art activity that resulted in a school-wide collection of "stones of remembrance."
  • Conducted an art activity centered on the life and work of Elizabeth Catlett.
  • Facilitated small-group English language lessons and evaluations with each first and second -grade student.
  • Hosted an "African American Read-In" in Spain as part of the National Council for Teachers of English's annual event. During this event, I read "Susie Clark: The Bravest Girl You've Ever Seen" to all first through sixth grade students over three days. The readings included an activity where students planted okra seeds, an important heritage reference from the book.
  • Delivered a presentation about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on my first day of school, which coincided with Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S. My bilingual coordinator assigned all sixth grade students to create a biography about him, and I had the opportunity to review and evaluate each one.
  • Designed a three-episode Harlem Renaissance podcast as a required "side project," featuring six students—two from each of the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. Our final podcast recording will take place on the last day of my Fulbright program. 

How has your Fulbright experience influenced you personally and professionally?

This experience has, more than anything else, provided me with the confidence to exist and engage with globally diverse groups of people. It has furthered my understanding and beliefs about how language works and is used in various power structures and defined cultures. It has helped me to appreciate immigrant student experiences in the U.S. I believe this experience will become invaluable to me as a new teacher in the Iowa City community. 

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

My advice for future Fulbrighters is to prepare to stick with the application process; believe that if you receive an award, you absolutely deserve one is doing you a favor; and finally, this experience is, more than anything else you will probably experience, what you make of it. No one, not Fulbright, not the U.S. Department of State, not your peers or parents can make this experience into the dream you have for yourself. YOU have to make it happen, so let go of all expectations and start creating your journey. 


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.