As she moved immediately from Spanish class to French class in her senior year of high school, Melissa Hosek ’14 knew she wanted to be a lifelong language learner. She nurtured that passion through rigorous Chinese language courses and immersion programs throughout her four years at HWS, and is now one step closer to achieving her dream of becoming a Chinese teacher. Hosek was selected as the recipient of a 2014-2015 Fulbright U.S. Student Award to support an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Taiwan.
“I feel blessed to be counted among the few U.S. students selected for the Fulbright ETA in Taiwan. This opportunity will allow me to take my passions for language learning and Asian studies to a whole new level,” Hosek said. “The network of advisers, faculty, staff, community members, and classmates here at Hobart and William Smith Colleges has given me such incredible guidance and support, I would not have been able to achieve this honor without their mentorship.”
Hosek applied for a Fulbright award to teach English because she wanted to share her American culture with Taiwanese students while immersing herself in their society and culture. As an Asian Studies and political science major, she is interested in the language, the role that Taiwan plays in East Asian regional politics, and the country’s rich collection of cultural artifacts.
“According to my Chinese instructors, Taiwan is a beautiful country with warm, welcoming people. I want to go to Taiwan to learn about these characteristics and more through firsthand experience,” said Hosek. “Then when I am a Chinese teacher, I can introduce my students to Taiwanese society just as my professors did for me.”
While in Taiwan, she plans to establish a letter writing exchange program between her students and those from Ballston Spa, her hometown school district, to help her students develop their English proficiency while inspiring American students to learn Chinese.
Last summer, Hosek volunteered at a week-long Chinese language and culture immersion program offered for Ballston Spa students. The district recently began to make more Chinese learning opportunities available to students.
As a first year, Hosek took Chinese 101 out of curiosity and said she “was swept away by the fascinating dimensions of intonation and characters.” It was then she knew one of her majors would be Asian Studies.
Her continued study of Chinese was both in class and through practical experiences such as listening to Chinese pop-music or talk radio and reading “Harry Potter” translated into Chinese. In June of 2012, she attended Middlebury Summer Chinese School, which had a strict no-English policy.
“This challenged every fiber of my being,” explained Hosek. “Every couple of weeks, the program would increase in difficulty, so I was constantly challenged to push outside my comfort zone. I went to office hours almost every day, spent the weekends in the library, and flipped through flashcards during meal times.”
She graduated from the program with “high-intermediate proficiency” and flew to Beijing just two weeks later to participate in the Colleges’ semester abroad program, studying Chinese language and culture at Peking University. While there, she taught English in a school for migrant workers’ children.
On campus, she served as co-president of the Newman Catholic Club, which has doubled in size since she helped revive it in 2010. She was a member of the selection committee for a new Chinese politics faculty member in the political science department and completed a digital project on the use of technology in Chinese language learning as part of her Instructional Technology Apprenticeship Program internship with the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium. She was the founder and organizer of the Chinese Language Tables; was a member and public relations officer for Project Nur, the Muslim Student Association as well as the Asian Student Union; was a member of Americans for an Informed Democracy and was Catholic student representative for the Interfaith Council. As a junior she was inducted into the Laurel Society, Phi Beta Kappa, Zeta-Chapter, National Honor Society, as well as the Pi Sigma Alpha, Chi-Phi Chapter, National Political Science Honor Society.
In December of 2012, she joined Assistant Professor of Philosophy Eric Barns and Yiqun “Ted” Cheng ’13 in providing debate coaching, instruction, and assistance to students at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology (NUST) during a three-day event that included workshops and competitions. She also presented a number of workshops on campus.
Hosek is currently studying Chinese in China, with the support of the U.S. State Department Critical Languages Scholarship. She was also the recipient of the Spirit of William Smith Award, Award for Citizenship and Community Engagement; Benjamin Gilman Study Abroad Scholarship; and was named to dean’s list.
She has worked for the Boy Scouts of America as a camp counselor and lifeguard at its Cub Scout camp in Galway, N.Y., over the course of four summers.
Created in 1949, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. Government’s flagship international exchange program. The program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and numerous nations around the world. Recipients are selected for their academic merit and leadership qualities, and will spend a year living, studying, teaching and conducting research abroad in effort to promote mutual understanding through intellectual freedom, academic integrity and openness.