Trinity awards Fulbright grants to two seniors

This year, two Trinity seniors have been awarded Fulbright grants to research and teach abroad next year.

Marisa Plasencia, a political science and international studies major, has been awarded a student research grant to research student protests in Seville, Spain.

“I studied abroad in Seville my junior year and I fell in love with the people and culture. There are frequent protests in Spain because of the economic recession, and I basically became interested in youth involvement in the protests,” Plasencia said.

Plasencia plans to look at how information communication technologies (ICTs), from texting to Facebook to blogs and emails, have been used by Spanish youth to organize protests.

“I plan to get familiarized with the youth population on two university campuses and look at how frequently they use ICTs to organize, as well as look at the content of their communication,” Plasencia said.  “I think it will be easier for me to interview people my own age because I myself am a college student. I plan to go to protests to gauge how youth protesters heard about them and how they tell others.”

Plasencia wishes to thank the Trinity faculty who encouraged her to apply for a Fulbright grant, without which she would not have taken advantage of the opportunity.

“I think what is really important for me is that professors should know how much their encouragement can help students.  It really helped me throughout the entire semester. They should know how meaningful and impactful their work is on students,” Plasencia said. “The application is complex and intricate.  Having their support makes it less stressful. I’m so incredibly grateful to the people who helped and encouraged me to do this.”

Senior Monica Stanton, an English and urban studies major with a minor in environmental studies, will teach English to children in Malaysia next year with a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

“A lot of my interests relate to issues in Malaysia. It’s a good place to study environmental issues as well as religious and post-colonial interests,” Stanton said. “I would like to be a teacher eventually, and a lot of my involvement throughout college and before has been volunteering in the community, especially with kids.”

Stanton will help teach a class of middle school children, and learn the basics of the Malaysian language to better communicate with them.

“Mostly I’ll be assisting the teacher, but once a week I think my role is to bring in a fun activity for the kids and kind of take charge of the class.  I’ll be at a school more on  the outskirts and in a rural area,” Stanton said.

She is also thankful to faculty for alerting her to the opportunity.

“I had heard about the opportunity in general but never thought about doing it until my advisor sent an email to a bunch of students. That made me seriously consider the opportunity and was a big help in pushing me in this direction,” Stanton said.  “I don’t know why I didn’t consider it earlier and it didn’t seem like something I could do, but it’s a good thing that someone pointed it out to me so now I get this great opportunity.”

Sarah Pinnock, professor of religion and Fulbright Program Advisor at Trinity wants students to be aware of the opportunity and consider applying.

“Its an amazing opportunity to see the world, to learn, and to develop professionally. It also speaks loudly on résumé because it’s so difficult to win. Many applicants go on to graduate studies, governmental work or nonprofit organizations.  It’s great if you want a career that involves living abroad or travel.”

Rising seniors are encouraged to consider applying now because the application deadline comes quickly in the fall.

“The application is due in September of senior year, when seniors are just starting planning.  You do have to think in advance about study abroad and coursework to become an expert on your country,” Pinnock said.  “However, you need far less specialization for teaching, but you have to demonstrate through leadership and volunteer experience that you’re qualified. The teaching assistantship is particularly good for people who want to live abroad and don’t know where they’re headed.”

Trinity students have been fairly successful in their applications, and many have received grants in the past several years.  This year of the six applicants, three were recommended, and two were awarded grants.  Two Trinity students, Allison Krause and Kellie Benn, were also accepted last year. Krause travelled to China while Benn travelled to Russia so future Trinity students should consider the opportunity.

“It’s important to know that this is possible, particularly for people with international focuses. Fulbright wants to see cultural sensitivity and curiosity and to know that applicants are culturally adaptable,” Pinnock said.  “The work is really independent, you’re not in a dorm, and your supervisor doesn’t meet you that often. Fulbright is great if you’re the kind of person who can work unsupervised and you know enough about what you’re doing and excited and ambitious about it.”