Five incoming Fulbright scholars from Tufts share why they chose to pursue a Fulbright, and what they are hoping to get out of their experiences
With a variety of goals and ambitions for their year of living and working abroad, seven Tufts scholars received Fulbright grants for 2022-2023 and are beginning their journeys to five different countries.
The Fulbright U.S. Student program, which was established in 1946 and is administered by the U.S. State Department, offers a year-long grant in which recently graduated undergraduates and current graduate students spend a year abroad conducting research, attending a graduate program abroad, or teaching English.
Tufts Now spoke with five of the Tufts Fulbright scholars, all graduates of the Tufts Class of 2022, to discuss why they wanted to be a Fulbright scholar and what they hope to get from their experiences living and working abroad. Nico Livon-Navarro, A22, and Carolyn Pelnik, F24, also received Fulbright grants, and will be working in Brazil and Nigeria respectively.
Max Goldfarb, A22
Hometown: Wyckoff, New Jersey
Major: International Relations and Spanish
Fulbright Destination: Spain
Max Goldfarb participated in the 1+4 Bridge Year program in Ecuador before he began as a freshman, and studied abroad in Madrid while at Tufts. He found that he learned the most in unfamiliar settings.
“I have grown the most by sitting with cultural differences and understanding where they come from,” said Goldfarb. “I’m hoping that I can be a strong ambassador for my own U.S. culture as well as the microculture of New Jersey and my experience at Tufts.”
Goldfarb will be returning to Spain for his Fulbright, this time in the upper northwest region of Galicia, where he will be an English teaching assistant, leading conversation groups and activities with students. As a passionate athlete and sports fan, Goldfarb also hopes to find a way to work with students pursuing athletics.
Goldfarb, who spent part of the past summer leading a group of middle school students in Ecuador, hopes to continue working with youth after his Fulbright concludes. “I like the energy they bring and the new ideas,” he said. “I really enjoyed working with kids and, in some way, shape, or form, I would like to have that be part of my life.”
Sophia Wang, E22
Hometown: Buffalo, New York
Major: Computer Science and Mathematics
Fulbright Destination: Taiwan
For Sophia Wang, an email from Anne Moore, program specialist in the Office of Scholar Development, got her attention.
“I didn’t know much about the Fulbright program until I got an email from Anne last semester advertising it as, ‘Do you want to go abroad after graduation?’ And I thought, yes of course!”
While the idea of living abroad first inspired her, Wang was initially hesitant to apply for the Fulbright. “I thought I didn’t fit the standard Fulbrighter profile,” she said. “I read that in past years, applicants had lots of international experience. Since I only had some teaching experience, I didn’t know if that would be enough to qualify as a competitive applicant.”
Despite her concerns, Wang decided to apply, focusing her application on her previous teaching experience and making sure to tie her application’s five essays to one overarching goal — and got it. Wang will be teaching English in southern Taiwan’s Yunlin county.
Wang is looking forward to further exploring her interest in teaching through the Fulbright program. “Throughout high school, I had been really passionate about empowering girls to pursue STEM professions and I would host workshops to teach girls how to code,” said Wang. “I thought a Fulbright would be a really great way to explore teaching skills, especially teaching a language, since it will be a fresh, new challenge for me.”
Wang is hopeful that the Fulbright experience, which she will be documenting on her YouTube channel, will help her decide her career path. “I want to use the Fulbright as a way to learn how to teach students, and also figure out what I want to do in the future,” she said.
Before she secured the Fulbright grant, Wang accepted a full-time job at McKinsey and Company, a consulting firm, which she will start when she returns. She anticipates the wide variety of experiences she’ll get in teaching and consulting to prove helpful. “Hopefully I can synergize and combine the two to figure out what exactly my path should be,” added Wang.
Jason Smith, A22
Hometown: Blue Bell, Pennsylvania
Major: History and French
Fulbright Destination: France
Jason Smith studied French culture, language, and literature at Tufts, and his grandfather was born in France. Through his Fulbright, Smith will get the chance to live in France.
“I’ve always loved traveling and learning about other cultures,” Smith said. “Working abroad and immersing myself in the language and culture of another country is the best way to do this, and truly get a sense of how people live somewhere else.”
Smith will be working as an English teaching assistant at a high school in Argenteuil, located just outside of Paris. He is interested in understanding more about European culture and society and improving his French-speaking abilities, but is also looking to lay down roots. “I hope to make friends there and establish connections that make me feel at home in Paris,” he said.
Ultimately, Smith wants to use his French skills in his career. “I will probably look for a job after I return from Paris, and I hope to speak French in that job. Hopefully I will figure out a way to do this while I am there.”
Phoebe Yates, A22
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Major: Film & Media Studies
Fulbright Destination: Spain
Phoebe Yates began her Tufts experience wanting to pursue an international literary and visual studies major. “I was really interested in finding an intersection between my interests of language and also art and media, specifically film,” she said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing the cancelation of her study abroad program in Spain, Yates changed her major to film and media studies. However, this shift in study didn’t change her interests.
After hearing about the experiences of other students who were Fulbright scholars—and discovering that the immersive program would allow her to pursue her literary and visual arts passions and that her experience could be tailored to her interests—Yates decided to apply.
“I think that kind of the best way to learn and understand a language is by living among people who speak it fluently,” she said. “That has always been a huge goal of mine.”
Yates will be teaching English to primary school students in Logroño, in the La Rioja region of Spain, and hopes that the experiences she will have there will open doors to what’s next for her career.
“I was speaking to Jennifer Burton [professor of the practice in the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies], who lived abroad for a year after college,” Yates said. “She thought she was going to do one thing, but instead it led to something else—and then something else again. I feel like it’s going to be that way for me.”
Jake Freudberg, A22
Hometown: Newton, Massachusetts
Major: Film & Media Studies and Spanish
Fulbright Destination: Spain
“I’ve spent most of my life in Massachusetts and New England, and I know there is a lot more out there,” said Jake Freudberg, who will be working as an English language assistant at an elementary school on Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands.
Freudberg, who was unable to study abroad at Tufts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was searching for opportunities to spend time abroad after graduating from Tufts, and found the Fulbright program to be the most prestigious and would provide him with the most support.
Freudberg is looking forward to improving his Spanish language skills and learning more about Spanish culture, but also wants to use the opportunity to step outside of his comfort zone. “I’m hoping to learn more about myself by experiencing something entirely different than what I am used to.”
Freudberg anticipates that his time in Spain will help him decide what he wants to pursue next. “I may want to teach, so this will be a good chance to try out being in a classroom. Or if I go down a different path, I think this experience will give me more perspective on my role in the world, and it may even open some new doors.”