As graduation approaches, some seniors already have the next year of their lives mapped out. This year’s fellowship winners will be traveling across the globe to pursue various personal interests, from home construction to Slavic languages, and, in most cases, to teach English.
Of the 38 Bowdoin students who applied for Fulbright fellowships this year, 20 were named national finalists, and seven have been accepted thus far, all as English Teaching Assistants: seniors Kenny Cortum, Talia Cowen, David Jimenez, Bridget Kranz, Michelle Kruk and Anna Piotti and alumnus Mark Richter ’14. A number of applicants are still waiting to hear back, including all those who applied for study research grants. 

In addition, Tess Hamilton ’16 was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and Caroline Martinez ’16 was awarded a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace organization to teach free leadership trainings to women in Ecuador. Will Danforth ’16 received a Princeton in Asia fellowship to work with the organization in Mongolia. Meg Freiberger ’16 was awarded a National Science Foundation research fellowship.

“The beauty is that there is such an array of national fellowships, so it’s not just one particular profile of a student who would look good for a national fellowships, there’s lots of different profiles,” said Director of Students Fellowships and Research Cindy Stocks. 

Several fellowship winners credited the approach of the Office of Student Fellowships and Research in developing their applications. 

“I’ve been through this numerous times, so when a student gives me a draft, I have the perspective of having seen years of earlier drafts and seeing who’s won and who hasn’t, so then I can help students think about what to they can tell their particular fellowships,” Stocks said.  
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, sends newly graduated students and alumni to teach English or conduct research abroad. Fulbright fellows act as representatives of American culture and foster international bonds. 

Applicants apply to a country they are interested in and are selected based upon two page-long essays—the Personal Statement and the Statement of Grant Purpose—as well as three recommendation letters.

Cortum will be traveling to Bulgaria as an English Teaching Assistant. He says that while teaching in Bulgaria, he hopes to be able to further his study of Bulgarian language and culture.
“I’m a connoisseur of some sorts of Slavic languages; I collect them, if you can collect languages like Pokemon” said Cortum. 

He says his experiences learning Polish, Russian and Serbian will help him to understand the mistakes his students make learning English. 

Cowen leaves for South Korea in July, where she will complete orientation and start teaching English. Currently, the South Korean education system is shifting its focus from memorization to critical thinking. Cowen describes her own learning style as “at the intersection of both” methods and is excited to witness that transition. 

“[Teaching in South Korea is] a total break from anything I’ve done here,” Cowen said. “I think the liberal arts education, the model of being exposed to many different things, prepares you for the shock of going somewhere totally different.”

Jimenez was accepted to the Romanian program. He says his interest in the country began in middle school with a book his uncle wrote about the country. “I remember reading through it, kind of captivating me a bit in eighth or ninth grade,” said Jimenez.

Kranz will be teaching English at a high school in Slovakia. For Kranz, the allure of Slovakia is deeply rooted in its political history. She is looking forward to seeing how Slovakia, which gained its independence in 1993, is handling itself politically and economically after being occupied by the Germans and the Soviets and being part of Czechoslovakia, where the Slovaks were a minority with little opportunity to self-determine.

A visual arts major, Kranz hopes to use her time in Slovakia to start working towards her goal of bringing art experiences to children in rural areas. “Because I’m only helping teach 15 hours a week, I’m hoping that I’ll either be able to start or help with a pre-existing community or after school art program,” Kranz said.

The Watson Fellowship is awarded “to college graduates of exceptional promise to engage in a year of independent learning and travel abroad, in pursuit of an approved project of unique personal significance,” according to its website. 

Using the fellowship, Hamilton intends to study how people live “in harmony with the surrounding landscape” all over the world. She intends to visit Iceland, Scotland, Mongolia, Tamarin and Portugal to examine the different ways which people build their homes. For example, Mongolia has supported many nomadic peoples in the past. However, desertification caused by Ulaanbaatar, the country’s major city, has made nomadic life more difficult and Hamilton intends to study how this increasing desertification has influenced local home building.