Three Monmouth University scholars have recently been named as semifinalists for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Spanish and education major Reya Foster, and recent alumnae Brittany Scardigno ’21M and Jennifer Stolte ’18 ’22M.Ed., all hope to serve as ambassadors in the program if selected.
The trio was chosen by the U.S. National Screening Committee and advanced to the final round of their respective English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Programs for the 2022-23 competition. The official list of finalists is set to be released sometime between March and June.
If selected as Fulbright grantees, all three will be scattered around the globe, with Foster set on Paraguay, Scardigno eying South Korea, and Stolte looking to Spain.
“We are very excited to have not one, but three semifinalists … The candidates worked hard, with dedication and curiosity, as they researched potential host countries, drafted and revised application essays, interviewed, and grew confident in their projects,” Mihaela Moscaliuc, Ph.D., Fulbright program advisor and associate professor, said.
Moscaliuc is also a member of the Institute for Global Understanding Fulbright Review Committee alongside Professor Randall Abate, J.D., and Associate Professors Michael Cronin, Ph.D., and Jiwon Kim, Ph.D.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or ETA Programs. Candidates are required to submit a “Statement of Grand Purpose” defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside of the United States. The ETA Programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to the local English teachers while serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States.
“All three students have a unique passion and skill set for what they want to do with their Fulbright in their respective countries, and that’s really what Fulbright is about: stepping outside the traditional education box and using your skills in a new context and a new place, and feeding off of that cross-cultural understanding. They are all very well suited for that … and I’m just really excited to see how the process resolves,” Abate said.
Many have questioned her land-locked country of choice, Paraguay, but for Foster it was always about servicing a nation she admires.
In 2020, Foster had planned a volunteer trip to the South American country but COVID-19 canceled her five-month visit. With a second chance in sight, Foster hopes to introduce the inclusive, community-based culture of the American coffee house and incorporate the Paraguayan culture through community scholars, students, activists, nomads, and other community members truly aspiring to be a part of her project.
She is also creating a podcast inspired by the national drink of Paraguay, “Tereré and Talk,” where she will host comparative conversations between Paraguayan and American culture, discussions on cultural concerns, elaborate and build upon laws in education, and feature art that is influenced from both nations. Her project will highlight the tradition of indigenous communities within Paraguay in addition to using pedagogical strategies to welcome and create her own community through her podcast.
“I’m very excited and grateful for the opportunity, and grateful for all the professors who helped me. So, it’s kind of a dream come true. This is definitely an opportunity for me to inspire the younger generation to dream. Fulbright was the perfect vessel for me to be a cultural ambassador through American community and also the Paraguayan community,” Foster said.
Experiencing the struggles of new beginnings through a close friend’s immigration journey from South Korea, Scardigno was intent on helping secondary students of the same country for her Fulbright project. Scardigno plans to assist students in learning the English language and balance multiple languages and dialects, along with navigating the translation process.
“That is the start of my drawing to South Korea in general, seeing [my best friend and her family] feel paranoid about pronunciation, or having something they said be misunderstood, or fearing the risk of miscommunication, or just not being taken seriously because of the dialect they are speaking. I want to continue helping people and the marginalized portion of South Korea with those complexities of the English language,” Scardigno said.
The current Monmouth adjunct professor will focus on building confidence in her student’s linguistic identity and help them become effective communicators within a wide variety of audiences.
Her project will implement mock interviews to prepare her students for the difficulties of the English language along with their collegiate and professional futures, including speaking with professionals in their desired areas of study. Scardigno will also prepare her students for the College Scholastic Ability Test, a standardized test recognized by South Korean universities.
Stolte is ready to immerse herself once again in the Spanish culture, but for her second trip to Spain she is focused on the regional community of Galicia.
After studying abroad with Monmouth in Andalusia, Stolte pinpointed Galicia as the only trilingual environment, making her decision an easy one. Stolte will participate in a multilingual educational system that teaches Spanish, English, and the Galician native language, Galego.
Stolte’s main goal is to implement experiential education, getting students out of the classroom and lecturing while walking through town. She hopes that situational context will help the fluidity of all three languages and plans to introduce the plurilingual and multilingual cultures, methodology, and organization to the United States.
“The biggest goal for my career was to create a multilingual or a plurilingual curriculum for a school district. So, I’m hoping that it all works out, because it would allow me to have the best experience,” Stolte said.