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Building Bridges Abroad

May 23, 2012

Building Bridges AbroadDrake Fulbright recipients make lifelong connections

Cultural awareness creates better teachers. That’s a lesson Kate Albrecht learned while studying abroad with Drake’s Chinese Cultural Exchange Program.

Albrecht, AS’05, GR’11, says travel brings new perspectives that allow her to create stronger bonds with her students at Des Moines Area Community College, where she teaches English as a Second Language.

Now, as she prepares for a yearlong position as a Fulbright scholar teaching English in Poland, there’s something special that Albrecht is hoping to learn, a very personal connection that she wants to make.

“My great-great grandfather emigrated from Poznan [Poland] at the turn of the 19th century,” Albrecht says. “While that side of the family has always been proud of their Polish heritage, they made the choice not to continue speaking Polish at home. I’m looking forward to reintroducing my grandmother to Polish and to visiting her grandfather’s birthplace.”

This year’s group of Fulbright recipients ties for the largest number of student and recent Drake alumni to receive Fulbright grants in an academic year. Albrecht is one of two recent Drake graduates to receive a Fulbright. One current student also received the prestigious grant, and two students were named as program alternates.

Drake has had tremendous success with placing Fulbright scholars in recent years, due in large part to the one-on-one guidance that Drake’s applicants receive from professors. Eleanor Zeff, associate professor of politics and international relations, guides students through the application process as director of the Fulbright program outreach at Drake. Students also work with a committee of faculty members who support their application.

“Having Fulbright scholars from Drake is a great reputation booster,” Zeff says. “These students serve as ambassadors for both Drake and the United States; people hear about Drake and see that our students are nationally competitive.”

Lindsay Whorton, AS’09, ED’09, who is a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, will use her Fulbright grant this year to pursue a doctorate in education and labor relations in Finland. Lisa Scott, AS’11, and Amina Kader, an international relations major, are program alternates—if placement opportunities arise they will teach in South Korea and Oman, respectively.

Anna DeVries, a politics and international relations double major, will be an English teaching assistant in Indonesia. She looks forward to the experience of teaching abroad and is comforted by the support structure that the Fulbright program—and its vast network of staff members and scholars—will provide.

“I know that I will be cared for by the Fulbright program, even if I have no idea what the adventure will bring,” DeVries says. “Additionally, I know I will be able to learn so much that will serve me in whatever career is ahead.”

Perhaps best of all, Drake’s Fulbright scholars will develop a stronger sense of their place in the world and how to make a positive impact.

“Teaching students who have never heard of Iowa really puts it into perspective that, in the end, I am only one of 7 billion people,” says DeVries. “I don’t want to be that number anymore than anyone else does. I would much rather be a face and a story.”

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