September 26, 2018 | ° F

U. receives notice of nine Fulbright grantees

With nine Fulbright grantees already confirmed and seven finalists still waiting, the University might exceed last year's all-time high of 11 total Fulbright recipients.

Office of Distinguished Fellowships and Post-graduate Guidance Director Arthur Casciato said he is keeping his fingers crossed.

"Up until four years ago, the highest number of Fulbright grantees among graduating seniors and Rutgers graduates was three," Casciato said in an email correspondence. "We have a legitimate chance to match or exceed last year's all-time high of 11 Fulbright grantees."

With students traveling anywhere from South America to Europe and Asia, Casciato is sure the top candidates have been chosen.

"Fulbright searches for and recognizes our nation's best and brightest young people to act as our cultural ambassadors throughout the world," he said.

Guiseppe Cespedes, a Rutgers College alumnus, is the first student to participate as an English teaching assistant in Brazil. Coming from a background focused on community service across the globe, Cespedes said Fulbright always caught his eye.

"Fulbright is something I got interested in more toward the end of my senior year," he said. "I always liked the idea of traveling. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and see the world through a different set of lenses."

The Brazil program is one of the most competitive, Casciato said. Only five English teaching assistants are awarded each year.

Cespedes, who majored in Spanish literature and linguistics and comes from a Peruvian-American background, decided to apply to the Brazil program after he realized he never explored the other side of South America — the only Portuguese-speaking country in the continent.

He traveled to other Spanish-speaking countries both in South and Central America, including Peru, Argentina and Costa Rica.

"I realized a big chunk of my knowledge of South America is missing," he said.

Cespedes also coordinates the Americorps program at the University, where he places more than 20 students with community service projects each semester. He hopes this experience will help him overseas.

"I hope it'll expand my knowledge of people," Cespedes said.

School of Arts and Sciences alumnus Jacob Phillips and School of Arts and Science senior Artemus Werts will both be English teaching assistants in Korea, also a first for the University.

The Korea program is different than most, because it places the grantees with host families in smaller, rural towns around the country rather than larger cities, Casciato said.

"The Korean Fulbright is a very proud organization especially interested in students ready and able to write about their experiences as English teaching assistants in Korea," he said.

Phillips, who studied abroad in China for a year, said he wants to expand his knowledge of Asia. He recalls having Korean students in his classes abroad, and it got him interested in pursuing an English teaching career in Korea.

"I really just want to go into it with an open mind and experience everything I can," he said. "Hopefully it'll just broaden my horizons further. Right now, China is my only view of Asia, but that's not what is just in Asia."

What excites Phillips the most is the idea of a host family and getting to know the culture more by living with actual Koreans as opposed to experiencing it in a University setting, like he did in China.

"I think living with a host family will really be the coolest thing and a great experience," he said.

But Werts is going into Korea with a slightly different approach — an interest in international education policy.

"The Fulbright program started getting me thinking about comparative education policy … as a means of bettering educational policy in America," said Werts, who added that the United States still lags behind other nations like Japan and Korea in education.

Werts knew he wanted a career in education. He was accepted into Teach for America, but when Casciato contacted him about the Fulbright opportunity, he got his hands on it as soon as possible.

"I'm most excited for just being in a completely different culture. I've never left the country before so this is going to be a real culture shock for me," he said.

An active member in the community in the United States, he plans to take up other activities in Korea, like studying Tae Kwon Do and participating in other community service projects.

"I'm excited to see the world from a non-American perspective," Werts said.

The other Fulbright grantees so far are alumnus David DeMair, who was granted a full Fulbright for graduate study in the United Kingdom, and Fulbright English teaching assistants are School of Arts and Sciences seniors Elizabeth Sahner for Colombia, Ed Lochocki for Indonesia, Melissa Chedid for Bulgaria, Sarah Esmi for Spain and Rutgers College senior Glenn Poole for Germany.

Casciato is hopeful for the other seven finalists awaiting decisions and the three alternates who could also possibly change into winners.

"I hope everyone in the Rutgers community will keep their fingers crossed for our remaining seven finalists even as they congratulate their nine peers who have already received their own good news," he said.

Ariel Nagi

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