By Lindsay Mower – Staff Reporter
English majors at UMF Lauren Crosby and Sarah Gould were recently named recipients of the prestigious 2017 Fulbright Scholarship. This award having granted them the opportunity, they will both be teaching English abroad with Crosby traveling to Thailand in October and Gould heading to Mongolia in July.
Crosby will be teaching English 20 hours a week in a rural location while helping to create community activities with a focus on music and songwriting. “When I was a little girl, my Mum introduced me to my favorite album, ‘Graceland’ by Paul Simon. ‘She moves so easily all I can think of is sunlight- I said aren’t you the woman who was recently given a Fulbright… I said who am I to blow against the wind?’” she recites while laughing, “I never really knew what a Fulbright was, but these lyrics enticed me to apply for one when the opportunity arose. Now, all these years later, here I am with a Fulbright English Teaching Fellowship in the country of Thailand… I can now be THAT woman Paul Simon wrote a song about 30+ years ago.”
Gould will be one of six students teaching English in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar at the National University of Mongolia. She chose Mongolia because when she was a homeschooled elementary student she had seen a film with Julia Roberts who lived with a nomadic family in Mongolia for several weeks during a lesson on Asia. “The beautiful culture and magnificent landscape really made an impression on me, and I always thought how incredible it would be to go there one day… When I decided to apply though, I thought back to Mongolia and figured this might be my best chance of seeing the country that had for many years fascinated me.”
Working extremely hard on the application and essays for nearly six months, Crosby says she owes much of her gratitude to two of UMF’s finest faculty members, Honors Program Director Eric Brown and History Professor Anne Marie Wolf, for aiding her with ideas, edits and questions. “I am forever grateful for their hard work and enthusiasm.”
Brown anticipates Crosby will have a fantastic time doing what she loves: educating herself and others in meaningful, exciting and intrepid ways. “Lauren’s a fantastic student, and a spectacular lyricist and musician, but she’s also incredibly industrious. Indeed, I think one of the most ingenious elements in her application was the way she knitted together her background as the daughter of a fisherman on a rural Maine island with similar ways of life in Thailand,” says Brown. “She has a remarkable turn of phrase in her essay, invoking what she calls the “gifts of isolation” —independence, self-motivation, a sense of adventure— that I think also speaks to her fit for international study and teaching… even if she had never left her small Maine island, those gifts prepared her to engage with the world authentically and without reservation.”
Beginning her application the third week of September, Gould had a non-traditional approach in completing the Fulbright application. “I emailed our campus Fulbright advisor Professor Wolf at the end of July inquiring about how to get started. I was surprised to learn that people had already been working since May,” she says, “I talked myself out of applying but the idea of it stayed in my head into the start of the school year.” When it came up in a meeting with her academic advisor, who suggested in all seriousness that she still have time to apply, Gould began completing the meticulous application in a frenzy. “My advisor said if I was willing to work like crazy she was willing to help me. In the end, I finished my Fulbright application to Mongolia in about two and a half weeks.”
Established in 1946, the Fulbright program offers a chance to increase mutual understanding between people around the world by providing financial opportunity to students in the United States. Crosby encourages all UMF students who have a thirst for adventure to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship. “I had this preconceived idea that the only people who get Fulbrights are kids that come from wealthy or privileged backgrounds, students who are striving to be doctors, lawyers or business executives one day,” she says. “I come from a blue-collar saltwater family and a State University.”
Gould’s advice for students considering applying for a Fulbright is that it’s imperative to think hard about where you want to go. “It is easy to have these romanticized visions of a place, but you have to take into account things like climate, living conditions and whether you are able and willing to adapt to that for an extended period of time,” she said.
Though Crosby’s plans for after the Fulbright are up in the air and “they probably involve a beach house and a waitressing gig” she says she’s sure the memories and knowledge she’ll gain during her experience will shape her into a better human being and help build a beautiful cultural bridge between America and Thailand. “I’m extremely grateful and blessed to be accepted into this U.S Government funded program. If I continue to be a classroom teacher, I will be able to use this experience to connect with my future students,” she says, “I’m now a member of the Thai Fulbright Family and will be able to hold that with me for the rest of my life.”