By Katie Bowden
In transitioning from young woman to teacher, the journey is not always easy. Recent graduate Mysee Chang (May 2013) often heard the message that she was merely a minority, low-income and not white. With the help of her major adviser Dr. Sharon Doherty, minor adviser Dr. Hui Wilcox and St. Kate’s Dean Alan Silva, she was able to unlearn these negative messages and move on to win a Fulbright as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA).
The Fulbright ETA, one of many competitive and prestigious fellowships offered in the United States, consists of an application process that takes from six months to a year. The Fulbright ETA specifically includes a personal statement, a foreign language proficiency evaluation, references and transcript components as part of its application requirements.
As a hopeful future candidate, Chang had the option of either contacting a Fulbright adviser or applying through her home institution. However, this winner of the Fulbright ETA almost didn’t apply at all.
“I didn’t think I would do it, or that it would be of interest to me while I was in college,” Chang said. “I remember that one of my mentors who had gotten a Fulbright had mentioned it, but in my senior year, I was thinking of applying to grad school in Southeast Asian Studies. I thought that this was something that I wanted to do for grad school, but I wanted to get some real experiences before I went to grad school. The opportunity to apply for the Fulbright came back.”
Without a Fulbright adviser on the St. Kate’s campus, Chang looked into the matter upon her own initiative and contacted Silva, who guided her through the process of applying for the fellowship. Unbeknownst to her advisers, Chang doubted her abilities.
“When I was applying for the Fulbright, there were moments where I felt unmotivated to complete the application process, because it felt to me like the chances of me getting it were slim,” Chang said. “I already know the Fulbright is competitive, and most people who get it have really amazing resumes or backgrounds. Luckily, I had many people who kept encouraging me to go for it and I just proved myself wrong.”
Silva acknowledges that the process has the potential to be stressful.
“Mysee had to do a lot of deep thinking about herself and her career trajectory, and she learned a lot about what she was most passionate to do,” Silva said of Chang’s application process. “This is exciting when this happens, but the process is arduous and filled with false starts and steps and wrong turns along the way.”
The hard work, however, rewarded Mysee with a congratulatory email.
“I was ecstatic, but at the same time, I couldn’t believe it,” Chang said. “I had to sign out of my email and sign in again just to make sure the congratulatory email was there.”
Wilcox did not see any of Mysee’s nervousness present in their interactions.
“She is always excited about learning,” Wilcox said. “The four years at St. Kate’s have definitely offered her ample opportunities to reflect on who she is and who she wants to be. She was able to use her learning in all of her courses and co-curricular activities in the effort to figure out her future career goals. She is, in other words, a very intentional learner and explorer.”
Because of her work, Mysee will be teaching English in Laos, a country she has a strong desire to live in, added to the fact that she has family in the country. For those considering applying for a Fulbright, Chang and Silva recommend talking to those who have received the Fulbright and keeping the inner drive alive.
Katie can be reached at email@example.com.