Earlier this year, five 2011 Wake Forest graduates were named Fulbright Scholars and given the opportunity to participate in the most prestigious international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Now teaching English or conducting research around the world, four of them — Ana Calles, Tyler Askew, Caitlin Garrigan-Nass and Kara Peruccio — reflect upon how their unique experiences at Wake Forest helped shape their lives abroad.
Ana Calles, a Spanish major from Clemmons, N.C., recalls how her interest in the Fulbright Scholarship was first sparked as a high school senior.
“I remember sitting in a conference room in Benson as the scholars’ director, Dr. Tom Phillips, gave an overview of the opportunities at Wake Forest. … Fulbright left an impression on me because it was a dream- a year of doing your own research in a country of your choice.”
Now, Calles is living her dream in Mexico City, where for one year she is conducting public health research on diabetic patients. She is part of a larger effort working to pinpoint the “social, economic, and educational factors that determine nutritional literacy,” ultimately hoping to influence public policy reforms that would have an impact on Mexico’s obesity epidemic.
So far, her work as a Fulbright Scholar has been fulfilling. “I work with amazingly intelligent, motivated, educated and welcoming people – I don’t recall a time when I was happier.”
– Caitlin Garrigan-Nass
Saint Omer, France
Drawn to the Fulbright scholarship because she respects the program’s mission of “fostering cross-cultural understanding,” Caitlin Garrigan-Nass was also eager to teach.
“After four amazing years at Wake Forest, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the classroom,” said Garrigan-Nass, a political science major from Kennett Square, Pa.
Currently, she teaches English to high school students in Saint Omer, France, where she uses games, fun activities and an afterschool club she created to foster a comfortable learning environment and improve their verbal skills.
Beyond grammar, she is also teaching her students as much as she can about American culture. After the program ends, she will begin law school at George Washington University, but for the rest of her time in France, she plans to fill any spare time with “lots of traveling and new experiences.”
– Kara Peruccio
Kara Peruccio, a history major from Manchester, Conn., teaches English to first-year students at Uşak University in Turkey. She chose to teach in Turkey partly because she wanted to challenge herself by living in a very different culture, and she credits her Wake Forest education with helping her to “stay focused and positive” while adjusting to the most challenging part of her transition into the Turkish lifestyle – the language barrier.
Fortunately, a flexible teaching schedule allows Peruccio some time for travel and fun. In addition to visiting friends studying and working in Vienna and Florence, she says, “I’m hoping to travel to eastern Turkey to see many historical sites.”
Beyond travel plans, Peruccio immerses herself in Turkish culture by training for the Istanbul Marathon’s 15K, studying Turkish history and blogging about her experiences. Peruccio, who has wanted to be a college history professor since her first history class at Wake Forest, is currently applying to graduate programs in Turkey and the United States.
Tyler Askew, a philosophy major from Brentwood, Tenn., teaches classes at Pázmány Péter Catholic University in Piliscsaba, Hungary. In addition to teaching English, Askew created the syllabus and curriculum for one of the courses he instructs, Development of Religion in America. Faced with the initial anxiety that accompanied teaching for the first time, Askew says he channeled lessons learned from his mentors at Wake Forest to foster good teaching skills.
“At Wake, I had several teachers who changed my life forever and caused me to see the world in an entirely new way. This is the effect that I would like to have on my own students. It is not enough to simply give them a ton of information. I want to cause them to think deeply about the world and their place in it.”
For Askew, the Fulbright scholarship has allowed him to pursue a passion “engaging other cultures” while gaining practical ability to teach for his future goals. One day, he hopes to become a professor.
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