Fulbright Award scholars travel abroad to teach, research, study

Brett Dunn

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Contreras, Hunkler and Marsh are three of eight UA students who were selected as Fulbright Award recipients for the 2014-15 academic year. The U.S. State Department directs and funds the Fulbright program to provide grants and scholarships for students to travel, teach and study abroad.

For Hunkler, the Fulbright Program provided a perfect way for her to combine her personal interests and hobbies with her career in Spanish education.

“I knew that after college I wanted an extended experience living and working abroad, and teaching English abroad is one of the easiest ways to do that,” she said. “I also wanted the opportunity to live in a Spanish-speaking country to practice my Spanish while also getting professional experience in the field of education in a ?different cultural setting.”

Hunkler, who had her Fulbright Award for teaching in Spain renewed for the 2014-15 year, teaches English grammar and literature to students ages 12 to 17. Hunkler said overcoming and adjusting to the cultural differences between the education systems in Spain and the United States ?was challenging.

“It is a generally more rowdy classroom atmosphere than in the states, and there is less organization and planning ahead,” Hunkler said.

Hunkler keeps a blog that allows her to describe and keep track of her ?daily experiences in Spain.

Haglaeeh Contreras, recipient of an English Teaching Award for Malaysia, said her extensive background in teaching English helped her receive a ?Fulbright Award.

“As an undergraduate, I traveled to Dominican Republic and Guatemala and worked with middle school students learning English as a second language,” Contreras said. “In the U.S., I also mentored elementary and middle school students learning English as their second language for about three years.”

Contreras said mentoring English as a Second Language students in the U.S. and teaching English abroad helped her learn about other countries and cultures in a way that she otherwise could not ?have experienced.

Marsh, who will be conducting research on the nutrition literacy of infant caregivers in China, emphasized the importance of strong support from professors ?when applying.

“I developed an affiliation with a Chinese professor who will be supporting me and mentoring me throughout the year. A supportive affiliation will often lead to a successful project,” Marsh said. “I was fortunate enough to have a really great professor agree to work with me, and she demonstrated to Fulbright that my project would be a great fit with her own research goals.”

Marsh will be able to work with Chinese students while conducting her independent research project.

The State Department describes the program as one that “facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things and the way they think.”

The recipients of the award are given a grant that allows them to stay one year abroad. Recipients can renew their award to continue their studies.

In addition to Contreras, Hunkler and Marsh, Cori Eden Fain, Sam Guggenheimer, Abigail Jones, Jilisa Milton and Gabrielle Taylor received Fulbright Awards.