In September, Emma McDowell ’15 will arrive in Bangkok, Thailand to begin her tenure as an English Teaching Assistant with the support of a 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Award.
“It was a goal of mine to apply for a Fulbright since sophomore year, and it’s an honor to have been chosen,” explains McDowell, who double-majored in environmental studies and Spanish & Hispanic studies, with a minor in anthropology.
Known for its highly competitive field of applicants, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. McDowell is one of seven HWS students and recent graduates to earn a 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Award, including Charles S. DeBenedetto ’16 (Taiwan), Ryan Kertanis ’16 (Mongolia), Afrika Owes ’16 (South Africa), Olivia Woodruff ’16 (Senegal), Virginia DeWees ’16 (Malaysia) and Sophia Skaff ’15 (Brazil).
Having recently returned to the U.S. from a six-month teaching assignment at an international cultural center in Antigua, Guatemala, McDowell is currently working as a program mentor for Global Leadership Adventures, which coordinates international volunteer programs for teens. Later this summer, she will travel to Thailand to work with an elephant sanctuary before beginning her Fulbright program.
She will begin her classroom placement after a month-long orientation in Bangkok, where she will learn about her new roles.
“What caught my eye was the teaching experience, since I eventually want to be a professor or work in a university setting,” she says. “There is also the Fulbright’s huge emphasis on cultural immersion and cultural exchange.”
In 2013, during a short-term HWS abroad program led by Professor of Women’s Studies Betty Bayer, McDowell volunteered at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and now looks forward to continuing work with conservation efforts in the country — “and learning conversational Thai,” she adds.
When McDowell, who studied abroad in Spain, returned from Thailand her junior year, she took “Environment and Development in Southeast Asia,” a course that focuses on environmental issues facing countries in the region.
“I ended up co-writing a case study about illegal animal trade in Southeast Asia that was presented at Bard College Student Research Conference on Asia and the Environment,” she explains, “so I’m really excited to see a lot of the things I’ve been studying play out in the real world.”
At HWS, McDowell was a finalist for the 2014 Charles H. Salisbury Summer International Internship Stipend Award. With funding through the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Learning, she pursued an internship with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, where, as a research assistant, she tagged green and hawksbill sea turtles, marked nests, led tours and educational activities in the local library and the visitors center, and trained groups of eco-volunteers.