The Fulbright Program — a United States cultural exchange program — has awarded two Willamette seniors, Alexis Gjurasic and Sarah Alexander, english teaching assistantships in Luxembourg and Malaysia, respectively.
The Fulbright Program is known as “one of the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange programs in the world” according to U.S. News & World Report, and offers select individuals grant funds for various projects in over 160 countries.
Gjurasic, an anthropology and French and Francophone studies double major, will teach Luxembourg high school and university students English language skills and an understanding of American culture. She said that she looks forward to “making connections with students” while abroad.
Originally from Olympia, WA, Gjurasic has been a Willamette varsity tennis player, active member of the Zena Farm Club, digitization assistant for the Willamette Archives and a tutor in the Willamette French Department and at Chemawa Indian School.
Alexander, a civic communication and media (CCM) and Spanish double major, will serve a similar role for secondary school students in Malaysia. She has been active in Willamette projects related to cultural exchange, social justice and environmental protection, as well as in volunteer work in Costa Rica where she taught English and worked with turtle conservation. Additionally, Alexander has served as a medical interpreter at the Salem Free Clinic, taught children rock climbing and skiing and interned at the Straub Environmental Center.
“I am most looking forward to learning about how to navigate a culture that I have absolutely no experience with,” Alexander said. “I have never stayed for an extended period of time in a place where I don’t at least have some familiarity — I study Spanish and usually travel to Spanish-speaking countries — so really, I am just intrigued by the idea of going so far out of my comfort zone, probably being very uncomfortable at first and then hopefully growing from that experience.”
Both Gjurasic and Alexander have a few pieces of advice for those looking to apply in the future.
“I would recommend starting as early as possible on the application,” Alexander said. “I was pretty crunched for time at the end. Some people I know started over the summer, which I would definitely recommend!”
“Dedicate a few weeks for those essays!” Gjurasic said. “Although each draft will not take hours, meeting with [Director of Student Academic Grants and Awards] Monique [Bourque] to review drafts was a key part of my process. [Also], be flexible where you apply! I wanted to apply to a francophone country, so I looked at all the francophone countries and found the best fit for me.”
“You submit the application twice, first to the on-campus Fulbright committee,” Alexander shared, “and then they do a brief interview and give you suggestions on how you can improve your application, and then the second submission is the national date.”
For students hoping to apply for the Fulbright grant, the steps are laid out on Willamette’s website. Any student with senior standing at the time of application may apply online by October 8, 2019 at 2 p.m.