It’s impressive for an institution to have one student named as a finalist for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The University of North Alabama has two, and this is the first time in the school’s history that any student has been up for the prestigious accomplishment.
Senior students Jasmine Fleming and Mollie Schaefer are UNA’s two finalists for the Fulbright program, which provides grants for individually designed study/research projects, or for English teaching assistant programs abroad. Both Fleming and Schaefer are finalists for the English Teaching Assistant Program.
Schaefer said she became aware of the program as a freshman at UNA.
“When I was a freshman,” Schaefer said, “a friend of mine from Birmingham received one; but aside from that, last year I went to see my professor Dr. Matt Price and something had fallen off of his table. I picked it up and it turned out to be a pamphlet on the Fulbright program; he told me I should keep and see if I was interested.”
Schaefer looked it over and thought it might be something she’d be interested in, so she applied.
For Jasmine Fleming the process was slightly different, but the main ingredient, Dr. Matt Price, was still in the mix.
“I learned about it at UNA because Dr. Price led a session on it and talked about it,” Fleming said. “So from there I knew I wanted to apply, especially because he said they try to diversify the people who are accepted each year, and we’ve never had any students from UNA accepted; so he thought that would give us a better chance,” she said.
Fleming is majoring in English and Schaefer is majoring in art. If they are accepted, both plan on teaching English abroad. Schaefer said her chosen destination is the Czech Republic.
“My interest in the Czech Republic started in an art history class,” she said. “There’s a very rich culture of art and history and science; it seems like a very well-rounded culture and one that simultaneously I can learn a lot from, without being so different that I hole up in my room crying and missing hamburgers.”
Fleming’s chosen destination is Spain, a country she has visited before and was so enamored with that she wanted to go back.
“I went to Spain last summer and it was the most amazing trip I’ve ever taken,” Fleming said. “I would love the opportunity to go back there and be able to do it while also getting experience to further my career.”
Both students have passed the initial part of the application program, which is approval by the Fulbright program. However, they’re now waiting for a response from their potential host countries. Fleming said she should hear something in April.
“The Spanish Government will look at my application versus all the other applicants and decide if they want me working in their country,” Fleming said.
Fleming is competing against students from other countries around the world who have also applied for Spain, which, she said, is a very large applicant pool. The downside is only one out of three applicants are accepted.
Schaefer said she’ll find out in March whether or not she’s made the cut. If it does not happen, she said she has other options she’s looking into, including the Episcopal Service Corps. However, she said the Fulbright Program would be a great opportunity.
“We’re moving toward a very global society,” Schaefer said. “So it’s important to experience travel. I think working abroad and teaching abroad is an experience that many people don’t get. Why wouldn’t you apply for something like that?”
Fleming said if she were accepted, this year would provide her more time to think about options.
“I do know that I want a graduate degree. I’m not entirely sure what I want to get that degree in,” Fleming said. “I think I know, but what would be great is that this year would give me more time to think about it. Then if I decide I still need more time, I’d still have the things I’ve done here I could use to find a job,” she said.
According to Fulbright online, more than 360,000 Fulbrighters from the United States and other countries have participated in the program since its inception in 1946. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide.