Sophia Skaff ’15 has been named the recipient of a prestigious 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Award to Brazil, where she will work as an English teaching assistant while furthering her interest in public health in Latin America.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing and learning about a new culture, people and language,” says Skaff, who majored in international relations and minored in Spanish and Hispanic studies and English.
Known for its highly competitive field of applicants, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. Government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Skaff was the first of seven HWS Fulbright recipients for 2016-17, including Charles DeBenedetto ’16 (Taiwan), Virginia DeWees ’16 (Malaysia), Ryan Kertanis ’16 (Mongolia), Afrika Owes ’16 (South Africa), Olivia Woodruff ’16 (Senegal) and Emma McDowell ’15 (Thailand).
This spring, the Colleges again have a record number of Fulbright recipients, matching the seven awarded to members of the Classes of 2015 last year. In light of the honors, the Colleges were recently named by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as one of the nation’s top colleges and universities with the most recipients of Fulbright U.S. Student Awards.
“The inspiration to teach English is part of a larger set of goals I have for myself,” explains Skaff. Since graduating from HWS, Skaff has been working as a paid intern for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids in Washington, D.C., in their Latin America Programs and International Research Departments. Hoping to continue advocating for tobacco control during her assistantship, Skaff plans to collaborate with Aliança de Controle do Tabagismo or a similar anti-tobacco organization in Brazil, while establishing an anti-tobacco club at her placement school that “promotes education on the negative health impacts of smoking and tobacco,” she explains.
“Overall, this experience will be an exciting and important step on my journey to a career promoting public health in Latin America,” she says.
Well-equipped to take on the demands of mastering Portuguese and adjusting to a new culture, Skaff spent her junior year at HWS studying abroad in Granada, Spain. Noting that conversations and interactions with Spanish friends and locals are what helped advance her Spanish skills the most, Skaff plans to shape the learning of her Brazilian students by connecting them with other English speakers and providing a “natural” classroom setting that allows students to practice conversational skills in a relaxed environment.
On campus, Skaff was a writer for the Herald, an America Reads tutor, and participated in the Human Rights and Genocide symposium. She was the recipient of a Charles H. Salisbury, Jr. ’63, P’94 Endowed Internship Fund award, which she used to fund her internship with the National Endowment for Democracy in the summer of 2014. In 2011, she was named a Helen Heath Scholar.