Tyler Drozd ’17 and Rachel Birkley ’18 have earned Fulbright Scholarships that will allow them to become English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) in Europe beginning in September. At North Central College, both majored in languages, studied abroad and traveled extensively.
Birkley, who majored in elementary education and Spanish, has long known that she was going to apply for a Fulbright. “My passion for travel and international education started when I was in high school because my family hosted two foreign exchange students,” she says. “I was inspired to study abroad and in fall 2016, I headed to Seville, Spain. I fell in love with the Spanish culture, people and the way of life. I knew I had to come back.”
Last summer, Birkley worked with the English Language Institute at North Central College as a counselor to high school students. “I mentored eight students. I took them to baseball games and downtown Chicago to increase their exposure to American culture,” she said.
Birkley will teach in the La Rioja region of Spain and hopes to connect the Spanish culture with her hometown of Lisle, Ill., through a pen pal project. She plans to become a teacher in a bilingual classroom or international setting when she returns.
Drozd majored in Spanish and German while at North Central and chose Germany for his Fulbright application. “I studied abroad in Seville, Spain, and then Heidelberg, Germany, and I really loved the people and culture (in Germany),” he said. Drozd studied Spanish in elementary, middle and high school but didn’t start German until his first term in college.
At North Central, Drozd also was a summer counselor for international students while they were enrolled in the English Language Institute. “I enjoyed working with international students and it was something I wanted to do in another country. Applying for a Fulbright was the right next step,” he said.
Drozd presented research on film and German culture at the Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research in 2017, which he said was also important to his Fulbright application. He will be teaching English in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, located in the far northern area of Germany near Hamburg.
The Fulbright program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program to build understanding across cultures. In the past, North Central College has been among the U.S. colleges and universities that produced the highest number of Fulbright students for exchanges.
“Fulbright awards always confirm the ongoing internationalization of our campus,” said Jack Shindler, professor of English and director of the Center for Global Education at North Central.
The Fulbright applicants were advised and mentored by Kristin Geraty, associate professor of sociology and director of the College Honors Program; Pearce Durst, assistant professor of English and interim coordinator of prestigious national fellowships; and Gregory Wolf, Dennis and Jean Bauman Professor in the Humanities and Professor of German.