As they are about to begin their experiences working internationally, five alumni share how they think their time abroad will shape their careers and worldviews
Fourteen recent Tufts alumni received prestigious Fulbright grants for 2023 and are about to embark on their year-long journeys across the world this fall, each with their own goals and ambitions while living and working abroad.
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 for recently graduated undergraduates and current graduate students to spend a year abroad conducting research, attending a graduate program abroad, or teaching English.
Tufts Now spoke with five of the 2023 Tufts Fulbright scholarship awardees to discuss their inspiration for applying for the program, and what they hope to learn from their year of living and working abroad.
Nine other recent Tufts alumni also received Fulbright scholarships: Raga Chilakamarri, A23, Katherine Furey, A23, and Sophia Hill, A23, will be based in Spain; Noah Caesar-Kim, A23, will be in Colombia; Christina DeJoseph, V22, in Zimbabwe; Lucy Fell, A17, in Chile; Patrick Gavazzi, A23, in Italy; Meredith Sherman, A21, in Malawi; and Mandy Wang, E22, in Taiwan.
Temple Miller-Hodgkin, A22
Hometown: Topsham, Maine
Majors: Quantitative Economics and Environmental Studies
Minor: Cultural Anthropology
Fulbright Destination: Germany
Temple Miller-Hodgkin, A22, participated in a high school exchange program in Germany, and has been looking for an opportunity to go back ever since. With a Fulbright, he will not only be able to return to Germany, but he will also get to pursue his academic interests while there.
“The Fulbright seemed like a great opportunity both to pursue and gain experience in academic research while also having an excuse to go back to Germany and be supported in doing so,” said Miller-Hodgkin.
He will be conducting research at the University of Leipzig. “My project will look at the history of urban gardening allotments under the German Democratic Republic, which was the socialist government of East Germany from about 1949 to 1990,” he noted. “I will be focusing on how small urban garden allotments both contradicted yet also supported the regime’s grander socialist visions of scale in agriculture and filled in some of material cracks, such as supporting people with food.”
When he returns from Germany, Miller-Hodgkin hopes to pursue a Ph.D. and remain in academia, and is looking forward to the hands-on experience he’ll get through the Fulbright. “I’m interested in history and geography Ph.D. programs, and usually in those programs you start doing field work in your third or fourth year,” said Miller-Hodgkin. “This is a really exciting opportunity to reverse that and go out into the field first.”
Gabrielle Rivera, N21
Hometown: Evanston, Illinois
Major: Agriculture, Food, and the Environment at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy
Fulbright Destination: Spain
When studying abroad in Madrid as an undergrad, Spanish culture and its emphasis on collective wellbeing left a lasting impression on Gabrielle Rivera, N21. As a Fulbright grantee in Málaga, Spain, beginning in September, Rivera hopes to be able to further explore this phenomenon.
“My personal and professional interests center on the ways food production and consumption can promote shared culture and sustainable living,” said Rivera. “While in Spain, I hope to use my knowledge of U.S. food systems to spur conversation with members of my host community who are involved with different food sectors.”
Rivera will serve as an English teaching assistant at the Universidad de Málaga, and additionally plans to volunteer for a local urban garden. She sees the upcoming experience as an opportunity to deeply delve into cultural knowledge sharing.
“The Spanish and U.S. governments are both committed to forwarding U.N. Sustainable Development Goals—SDGs—and recognize the role of university research in developing solutions to global challenges,” said Rivera. “I am interested in working abroad because I want to help drive progress on SDGs in universities and build a deeper understanding of the global food system.”
Rivera hopes to take the relationships she builds and knowledge she gains from working in Spain to inform how she will approach a variety of matters in her future career. “I plan to work in a governmental role facilitating workshops with diverse food system stakeholders to foster learning communities that inform U.S. policy to be more equitable and resilient to climate change,” said Rivera. “It is important to me that I enhance cross-sector collaboration strategies with values and methods I take from teaching English to university students in Spain to better engage people from different educational and cultural backgrounds.”
The relationships she hopes to build in Spain with local food organizations “will form an ongoing channel to share strategies to improve sustainability initiatives in both Spain and the U.S.,” she added.
Jeevan Palaniyandy, A23
Hometown: Simsbury, Connecticut
Majors: International Relations and History
Fulbright Destination: Taiwan
When he was growing up, Jeevan Palaniyandy, A23, spent each summer in his mother’s hometown of Penang, Malaysia. Being exposed to a Chinese-speaking society there sparked an early interest in Chinese language, culture, and politics. This would lead Palaniyandy to start studying Mandarin Chinese in the seventh grade, and eventually bring him to living in Asia.
Palaniyandy capitalized on this interest at Tufts, focusing his studies on issues surrounding the Taiwan Strait under his advisor Michael Beckley, associate professor of political science. Now, through the Fulbright program, he will spend the next year in Taiwan’s Yilan County, teaching English to middle school students and being a personal ambassador for the United States.
“As an English teaching assistant, I will learn every day from my students. I hope to share my passion for language learning and expose them to foreign cultures, while advancing my own proficiency in Mandarin,” said Palaniyandy.
During his time at Tufts, Palaniyandy held formative professional experiences in Washington D.C. working with the Department of Defense and the Department of State, and anticipates that his experience in Taiwan will help shape the next stage of his career. “I am confident my increased proficiency in Mandarin and interpersonal experiences living in Taiwan will strengthen my future career in the intersection of the federal government and consulting,” said Palaniyandy.
Emily Lazorchak, A21
Hometown: Brookfield, Connecticut
Majors: Biology and Spanish
Fulbright Destination: Germany
When a high school teacher suggested that she consider teaching English abroad through the Fulbright program after she graduated from college, Emily Lazorchak, A21—who was teaching herself German at the time—made it her goal to pursue a Fulbright in the years ahead.
In 2021, she was named an alternate for a Fulbright English teaching assistant grant to Germany—in case someone else dropped out of the program. Instead, she accepted an English teaching position in Austria, and then went on to earn a master’s degree in global higher education at the Universidad de Alcalá in Madrid, Spain, all the while continuing to teach.
This fall, Lazorchak is achieving her Fulbright goal when she begins an English teaching assistantship at a school in Hamburg, Germany. “Even though it has taken me a few years longer to get to Germany than I had anticipated, I feel more confident going into the Fulbright with two years of teaching experience under my belt,” said Lazorchak.
Lazorchak’s experiences at Tufts, particularly as part of the German Language House, helped her find her passion for fostering intercultural exchange and bringing people together across languages and cultures.
“Tufts nurtured my hobby of German into part of my identity: I learned so much from the German exchange students in particular, who were always willing to share their language and culture. That led me to pursue a career in global education so that I can help create international experiences for others,” said Lazorchak. “I see the Fulbright in Germany as an opportunity to give back to the people and culture I have learned so much from.”
Since her decision to pursue global education as a career, Lazorchak has learned that she is particularly interested in one day facilitating a program that helps high school students spend a year in the U.S., and Germany is a major sending country for such programs.
“By living in Germany and working in a German school, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of where students come from so that I can better prepare them for their experiences abroad and help them navigate the challenges they might face in the U.S.,” said Lazorchak.
Emma Christman, A23
Hometown: Sudbury, Massachusetts
Major: International Relations
Fulbright Destination: Croatia
In her Sociology of War and Peace class at Tufts, Emma Christman, A23, studied how post-conflict societies heal and transition to peace. Learning about the history of war and ethnic conflict in the Balkans, Christman pondered how Croatia achieved its present success as a peaceful and democratic state. This fall, Christman will have a chance to explore this topic as during her Fulbright in Croatia. “This will allow me to consider questions about the foundations of peace and justice while teaching English in a setting of rich history and natural beauty,” she said.
Christman will be working as an English teaching assistant at the University of Zagreb, and will support students in improving their English fluency and facilitate cross-cultural conversations. “As an avid reader, I would love to start an English-language book club outside of the classroom for students and community members to come together and practice their English over stories,” added Christman.
Having studied abroad in both France and Scotland in the past, Christman has long been interested in traveling to new places and learning new languages. She found her time abroad has benefited her in many ways.
“The time I spent both in France and in Scotland deeply influenced my education and worldview, and living far away from home helped me to become a more independent and curious person,” said Christman. “I am so grateful for this opportunity and I hope that my Fulbright grant in Croatia will allow me to integrate into a new community, learn language skills, build relationships, and confront biases.”
Christman believes the knowledge she’ll gain from her experience will align with her career aspirations. “During my Fulbright, I plan to learn about Croatian history and the country’s legal system in order to better understand the conditions that create just and democratic societies,” she said. “I would love to ultimately work for the American Civil Liberties Union or a similar nonprofit that does law and advocacy work.”