Name: Kelsey O'Donnell
Hometown: Sergeant Bluff, Iowa
Type of Fulbright Award: Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award
Degree and Field of Study: B.A. International Studies, Anthropology, 2017
Research/Teaching: In Taiwan, I will teach English at an elementary or junior high school in Kinmen, which is a small island of about 130,000 people. Aside from my teaching duties, I will try to make my time there a memorable cultural experience by integrating with the local community. Because of my twelve years of experience as a Girl Scout and leader in Iowa, I plan to volunteer for a local Girl Scouts of Taiwan chapter. I will assist with community-based activities that focus on life skills, leadership, and decision-making. These activities may include camping, cooking, fundraising, and volunteer projects in the community. Additionally, I plan to start or get involved in a local hiking club on the weekends.
What drew you to this field of study? I was drawn to the Fulbright program because of my experiences with international students at Iowa, many of whom speak Mandarin, and my coursework in international studies. The Bridging Domestic and Global Diversity program at Iowa was one of the first experiences that helped me foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultural differences with my peers. Through the development of relationships with those of different backgrounds than my own, I have gained new perspectives on society, education, and the world. This experience will provide me with valuable cross-cultural experience, personal connections, and the chance to learn about a different education system.
How do you envision this will change your life? I hope to work in international education in the future. This experience is the next step to develop my teaching skills and gain a deeper understanding of cultures in Taiwan to try to create an enriching experience for Mandarin- speaking international students in the United States. It will positively shape how I interact with students in the future. I also hope to share my experience with people in the United States to create mutual understanding between two diverse countries. I also envision the Fulbright will change my life in personal and professional ways that I do not even realize yet.
What advice do you have for future students interested in pursuing a Fulbright award? My advice to future Fulbright applicants is to start early, utilize the Fulbright network, believe in yourself, and remember the end goal. The application process is long and difficult and there were many points along the way that I wanted to give up or didn’t believe that I was good enough to apply. It’s important to remember your personal reasons for applying and to demonstrate your true self in your application. Anybody can apply and be successful, regardless of major, if you have the determination and a strong argument. And remember, you are not alone. There is a significant network of faculty, staff, and fellow students who are there to support you throughout the application process.