Providence, R.I.-- Alexandra E. BetGeorge '11 (Syracuse, N.Y.), a Global Studies major and political science minor at Providence College, has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to teach English and undertake an independent study in Bulgaria.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
Each year, approximately 1,500 students receive a Fulbright U.S. student grant to go overseas. The last Fulbright grant awarded to a member of the PC community was to Kristina H. Reardon '08 in 2010.
BetGeorge, a member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program, will spend from September 2011 to June 2012 teaching at the Shumen Foreign Language High School--Nicola Jonkov Vaptsarov--in Shumen, Bulgaria, and conducting legal research on the status of the Roma (ethnic) population there. She also hopes to start an English Activities Club for students.
BetGeorge said she envisions the after-school program would include a number of activities ranging from café outings to Skype conversations with American high school students--with all conversation being held in English.
Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education, and athletics. Forty Fulbright alumni from 11 countries have been awarded the Nobel Prize and 75 alumni have received Pulitzer Prizes.
Fulbright selection committees rate candidates based on their academic or professional qualifications; the validity and feasibility of the applicant's proposed project; evidence of maturity, motivation, and adaptability to a different cultural environment; the impression a candidate will make abroad as a citizen representing the United States; and demonstrated leadership potential. The program currently operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.
Inspired by work with NGO
BetGeorge said she applied for the Fulbright ETA because she was inspired by her study abroad experience with Tunisian students she worked with as an educational advisor last summer.
Working for the non-governmental organization AMIDEAST for three months, BetGeorge was the primary programmer for the Youth Exchange and Study program (YES), funded by the U.S. Department of State. YES is a cultural immersion program that welcomes students from Muslim countries to spend a year as a high school student in the United States with a host family.
She spent much of the summer preparing newly accepted students for their year abroad and helping the previous year's students assimilate back into Tunisian culture. She also coordinated and ran a week-long, pre-departure orientation for YES students.
In addition, she supervised online Skype chats between American and Tunisian students to practice English and Arabic and helped Tunisian Fulbright undergraduate students write their application essays to their chosen master's and doctoral programs in the United States.
"Many of the students were applying for college in the United States after studying abroad here during high school, and I saw how their knowledge of English empowered them to pursue brighter futures," she said. "With a Fulbright ETA, I hope to inspire Bulgarian students through English proficiency."
She added, "I also hope to learn quite a bit of Bulgarian from my students, find a place in the community there, and understand the dynamics of Bulgarian law and political culture."
BetGeorge is a member of the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs and the Middle Eastern Student Association. She also co-led the Alternative Spring Break trip to Arizona this past March and writes for The Cowl and The Alembic.
"A fine representative"
Dr. John B. Margenot III, professor of Spanish and faculty representative for PC's Fulbright program, said he wasn't surprised when he learned of BetGeorge's Fulbright.
"I have no doubt she'll be a fine representative of our country abroad," he said. "She is a pleasant person, clearly gregarious, and immediately impressed the Campus Evaluation Committee with her poise and engaging personality."
Margenot pointed to BetGeorge's time in Tunisia and her academic training as proof of her excellent credentials.
"Alexandra is keenly aware of the difficulties and rewards involved in second language acquisition. She has clear, concrete ideas on how to run a classroom, engage students, and structure activities," he said. "She exhibits a striking sense of empathetic understanding for others."