A number of Dartmouth students and alumni will spend the next year teaching or researching abroad as recipients of prestigious Fulbright Scholarships.
“On behalf of Scholarship Advising and the faculty Committee on Graduate Fellowships, we are excited to support the experiences and work abroad of our very talented students and alumni,” says Kristin O’Rourke, assistant dean for scholarship advising. “We feel sure that they will benefit greatly from this experience abroad as they move on in their post-graduate plans.”
Named for former U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, who in 1945 introduced a bill in Congress to support student exchanges, the Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The program provides funding for students, scholars, teachers, and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools in more than 140 countries worldwide.
This year's Dartmouth Fulbright scholars are:
Jina Choi ’13
For Jina Choi ’13, her last college spring break meant it was time for one thing: job interviews.
At the end of March, Choi traveled to Washington, D.C., to talk with a consulting firm. It had been more than six months since she applied for a Fulbright Scholarship, she says, and she had nearly forgotten about her application.
After her interview with the Washington firm, Choi checked her email. She had a note from the Fulbright Program—offering her a scholarship to teach English in South Korea.
“It kind of changes your plans when you get an email like that,” Choi says with a smile. “It was total disbelief.”
Choi, who is from Henderson, Nev., is a double major in French and psychology. Though she has always had an interest in psychology—“I like understanding people,” she says—she did not expect to develop such a passion for French. When she got to Dartmouth, Choi enrolled on a whim in a first-year course, barely knowing a word of the language.
Soon she would spend two terms in France—one on the French Foreign Study Program (FSP) during her sophomore year, and another as a junior when she interned in the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
“Dartmouth offers great international opportunities,” says Choi. “I’ve had so many experiences that I am really thankful for.”
“Jina is a highly thoughtful and analytical student who has done wonderful work in French studies at Dartmouth,” says J. Kathleen Wine, associate professor of French and Italian.
Choi says she hopes her experience abroad helps her transition to her new position.
A Korean-American, Choi looks forward to getting to know her students and is eager to be a part of the educational system, which, she says, is highly valued in South Korean culture. Choi, who served as managing editor for Dartmouth Law Journal, hopes eventually to go to law school. But for now, she is excited to absorb her experience in South Korea.
“It is the perfect opportunity for me,” she says. “To live there for a year is a bucket list type of experience.”
Benjamin Kahn ’11
When asked how his time at Dartmouth helped him earn a Fulbright Scholarship, Benjamin Kahn ’11 laughs.
“My Dartmouth experience is wholly responsible for getting me to Vietnam,” says Kahn, referring to the country where he will spend the next year teaching English.
Kahn says he was a good student before Dartmouth, but he cared mostly about grades. Dartmouth changed that.
Noting his experiences in the classroom, his several trips abroad, and his work mentoring high school students through the Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD) program, Kahn says his time at Dartmouth has been transformative.
“My Dartmouth experience drastically altered the trajectory of my life,” he says. Dartmouth “infused me with passion and provided multiple opportunities to live abroad and a desire to continue to explore the wonders of new places while trying to make a positive difference as an educator.”
A native of Marlboro, N.J., he understands his role as an American in the “ongoing reconciliation process” between the U.S. and Vietnam. “I am more than happy to contribute to peaceful exchange in any way I can,” he says.
A history major at Dartmouth, Kahn will teach at the college level in Vietnam. He has spent the past year as a teacher in the Marshall Islands and is looking forward to seeing the Vietnamese education system firsthand.
“I can’t wait to meet my students and begin teaching,” he says.
Marissa Lynn ’13
If Marissa Lynn ’13 is anything, she is well traveled.
As a Dartmouth student, Lynn studied in Morocco on a FSP, spent a term in Spain with a Language Study Abroad, and taught English in Nepal. This term, she is off-campus working for a health advocacy group in San Francisco.
So what’s her next destination? South Korea.
Lynn received word over spring break that she won a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in the East Asian country.
Lynn, who was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship last year, credits Dartmouth with helping cultivate her passions. A biological sciences major, she says Dartmouth’s flexible D-Plan system allowed her to study abroad and take a variety of courses that she found interesting.
“Dartmouth has really been instrumental,” says Lynn, from Bow, N.H. “The D-Plan has been incredible. Being from small-town New Hampshire, it really opened my eyes to the wider world.”
She says Lee Witters, the Eugene W. Leonard 1921 Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at the Geisel School of Medicine and professor of biological sciences, has been a valuable mentor and encouraged her to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship. Witters calls Lynn a remarkable student who is “flowing with compassion and empathy.”
“Marissa possesses all the pieces of a student who can represent the very best of Dartmouth to those in distant lands,” he says.
In addition to academics and traveling, Lynn is an avid runner and participates on the Dartmouth Endurance Racing Team. She hopes to start a running club at her school in South Korea, a country that Lynn says often overlooks physical education. Lynn will teach secondary school, and is excited to immerse herself in Korean culture.
“I want to learn as much from my students as I can while I am teaching them,” says Lynn.
Ethan Mefford ’08
If Ethan Mefford’s application for a Fulbright Scholarship had a couple of typos, it would be understandable. After all, Mefford, a United States Marine, was serving a seven-month tour in Afghanistan while he completed his application, and may have had a few distractions.
“The military Internet was pretty good,” he says with a laugh. He worked on the application at night, he says, when he had a free moment. “Luckily, I had a couple of weeks to polish the application once I got back to the U.S.”
Mefford’s next trip abroad will be as a researcher, as he will spend a year collecting oral histories in Morocco with the support of a Fulbright Scholarship. Mefford will interview about a dozen people who were involved in the fight for Moroccan independence from France, which was achieved in 1956.
At Dartmouth, Mefford served as captain of the club soccer team and participated in the Marines Corps’ Officer Candidate Course after his junior year. Mefford first became intrigued by Morocco while studying there during his sophomore year.
“I felt like there was so much more to learn about the country,” says Mefford, who lives in Trinidad, Calif.
Mefford, who is no longer on active duty, has co-authored a piece in the National Review, earned the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and graduated among the top 10 percent of his class at the Marines Corps’ Communications School. A history major, he says his academic passions were first realized in Hanover.
“At Dartmouth, I really developed an interest in Middle Eastern history and in Arabic,” he says. “The professors were really great and helpful.”
Mefford is eager to conduct research in the North African country.
“I’m looking forward to really trying to get fluent in Arabic and building relationships in Morocco,” he says.
Those relationships in Morocco will be possible thanks to his hard work at night in Afghanistan.
James 'Craig' Smyser ’13
For Houston native Craig Smyser ’13, college meant braving the cold New England winters. A nationally ranked debater in high school, Smyser came to Dartmouth because of its strong debate program and because he liked the community. And the weather? “I figured, I’m tough, I can handle it,” he says with a laugh.
It should be warmer at his next destination: Smyser will head to Turkey as a Fulbright Scholar.
“I really wanted the chance to go abroad, and Turkey is such an exciting place,” says Smyser. “They are an emerging economic power and are in an important strategic location.”
The philosophy major will teach English at the college level. At Dartmouth, Smyser helped to develop and teach a pubic speaking class at the nearby Ledyard Charter School in Lebanon, N.H., and has worked extensively with the Dartmouth Debate Institute. He has been a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar and has interned with the Council of Economic Advisers in Washington, D.C.
“Craig is one of the most intellectually committed students I have ever worked with. He brings to all his intellectual endeavors passion and exemplary critical acumen,” says Lawrence Kritzman, the John D. Willard Professor of French and Oratory and professor of comparative literature.
Smyser says he values the relationships he had with instructors like Kritzman.
“I think the outstanding thing about Dartmouth is the chance to build really close relationships with professors,” he says.
Anna Leah Berstein Simpson ’13
When she moved to Belgium from the United States in first grade, Anna Leah Berstein Simpson ’13 struggled to learn the country’s language of French. By the time she moved back to the U.S. in fourth grade, she was almost fluent.
“Learning a new language is a very empowering experience,” she says. Her experience in Belgium, Berstein Simpson says, is one reason she is looking forward to teaching English in France as the recipient of a French Government English Teaching Assistantship through the Fulbright Program.
Berstein Simpson, who is from Bethesda, Md., believes Dartmouth helped prepare her for teaching. She served as head writing assistant for the Student Center for Research, Writing, and Information Technology, a position in which she helped tutor fellow students. She has also worked as a drill instructor in the French department.
“Dartmouth has given me lots of opportunities to work and think of myself as a teacher,” says Berstein Simpson.
She is finishing an honors thesis with Roberta Stewart, professor and chair of classical studies.
“Intellectually and personally, Anna Leah displays herself as a thoughtful global citizen deeply concerned with fundamental issues of the global community,” says Stewart.
Berstein Simpson says she has enjoyed the compassion of Dartmouth professors and students alike.
“What I really appreciate about Dartmouth is how supportive the community is,” says Berstein Simpson. “Students are really excited to share their interests and also their enthusiasm for their friends’ interests. I think that really speaks very well of the Dartmouth community.”
Eliza Relman ’13 was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Malaysia, but chose to accept a teaching fellowship at the Asian University for women in Bangladesh through the WorldTeach program.
William Hickman ’16 has been awarded a Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. Hickman will travel to the country of Oman to study Arabic this summer.
For more information on the Fulbright Scholarships and the application process for Fall 2013, see Dartmouth’s national fellowships and scholarships website.