[Editor's note: Kelley Garland '16 is graduating with magna cum laude honors. She is this year's recipient of the Alumni Association Student Service Award, given to the senior who has contributed the most to the College. Abbey Guerino '16 graduates with summa cum laude honors. She earned the highest GPA in English/creative writing.]
Fulbright scholars Kelley Garland ’16 (Wantagh, N.Y.) and Abbey Guerino ’16 (Milford, Conn.), both members of the College’s Liberal Arts Honors Program, will spend the next academic year teaching English to secondary school students alongside a master teacher.
The Fulbright Program, the prestigious international education exchange opportunity sponsored by the U.S. government, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Each year, more than 1,900 U.S. citizens pursue research or teaching assistantships in more than 155 countries through the program.
Garland will travel to the Czech Republic, where she had an internship with a nonprofit and took a political science course in the summer of 2014. Guerino will return to Spain, where she spent spring 2015 at the University of Seville and volunteering in a fourth-grade classroom.
Garland and Guerino are among 11 PC students or alumni who have received Fulbright teaching or research grants since 2010.
“They’ll both make very fine ambassadors. Both of them are curious, open, and patient. Kelley and Abbey are keen observers who respond with intelligence, enthusiasm, and good humor,” said Dr. Darra Mulderry, visiting assistant professor of history who advises honors students who are applying for postgraduate fellowships.
The application process is extensive. A faculty endorsement committee that included Mulderry; Dr. John B. Margenot III, professor of Spanish and committee chair; Dr. William P. Hogan, associate professor of English and director of the College’s Center for Engaged Learning; and Dr. Alison Caplan, assistant professor of Spanish, interviewed each candidate and recommended them to the U.S. Fulbright Committee. That committee then forwarded its choices to selection committees in each host country.
Garland, who is PC’s senior class president, is a global studies major and has minors in sociology and French, as well as a business studies certificate. She will leave in August for Gymnázium a Střední odborná škola pedagogická, a secondary school in Nová Paka, Czech Republic, near the country’s border with Poland.
Garland said she always wanted to study abroad, and her major required international experience, but she didn’t want to go during the academic year because of her commitment to Student Congress. Instead, she spent eight weeks between her sophomore and junior years in Prague and interned at a nonprofit.
She chose the Czech Republic over a Francophone country such as France or Belgium because she had traveled to Europe before and wanted a novel experience.
“I really wanted to put myself in an uncomfortable position by going someplace where I didn’t know the language, so I could really feel culture shock, learning to readjust to a culture and language I didn’t know much about,” Garland said.
Prague did not disappoint her. “I fell completely in love with the city,” she said. “Prague looks like it comes out of a fairy tale. The pure beauty is enough to make anyone want to come back.”
During her travels, Garland met native Czechs who were so warm and friendly and open about their country’s history and culture that she became eager to return.
“Fulbright presented an amazing opportunity — I could go back to a country that I didn’t realize would have such a significant impact on my life, and go to a village or smaller city that isn’t English-speaking and help out some high school students there,” she said.
Garland did not have to learn Czech for this position, but she has begun working online with a Czech language tutor, who is based in Belfast. She understood that she would likely be placed in a region where few people would speak English.
“As stressful as it may seem, I think it will be that push that anyone learning a language needs in order to get a strong grasp of the language,” she said.
Garland did some research and contacted the principal of a high school in Texas where many of the students are of Czech heritage. She hopes to start a letter-writing exchange between her students in the Czech Republic and the Czech-Americans.
“Not only can students in the high school in Texas learn about the heritage and culture there, but [the Czech students] can also practice English and learn a little bit about America in a completely different area than someone on the East Coast,” she said.
In return, she will be immersing herself in Czech culture and learning the language.
“I can show them a little bit of what it means to be an American, and a New Yorker, and a student of Providence College,” she said.
Guerino, who majored in English and Spanish, is a member of PC’s Campus Ministry. In addition to serving as Peer Ministry coordinator as a senior, she coordinated Campus Ministry’s English as a Second Language program for campus food service and janitorial workers in her sophomore year.
“It sparked my interest in teaching others languages but also learning from people I was instructing,” she said. “I saw it was a mutually beneficial exchange of culture, of different things they could teach me.”
She didn’t stop doing service when she went abroad in spring 2015. During her five months in Seville, Guerino volunteered as an English language assistant in a fourth-grade classroom five to six hours a week while taking courses at the University of Seville.
“I learned so much from being immersed in their school system and going to university,” Guerino said.
She said she developed a great relationship with her teacher, which made her consider the Fulbright.
“I looked back on the experience and decided I wasn’t done with Spain,” she said.
Guerino will get to explore a new region when she returns, Madrid, an area she traveled to only twice — to fly out of the airport and to go to the bus station. “I haven’t really experienced Madrid or the culture of northern Spain,” she said.
When she returned to campus in the fall, she approached Mulderry and began to work on her application.
Guerino, who was a copy editor for The Cowl, PC’s student newspaper, said she has always had aspirations to work in the publishing industry.
“When I came to Providence four years ago, if you had asked me what I thought my college experience was going to be like, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything close to what has happened to me, thanks in great part to the entire community at Providence,” she said. “They encourage you to walk through doors you never would have opened yourself. You constantly have a group of people here who support you.”