Stephanie Kendall was eating breakfast when she saw an e-mail with the subject “Fulbright Status.”
Kendall is one of six GW students so far this year to win a Fulbright scholarship, a prestigious grant funded by the State Department that pays for American scholars to conduct research or teach abroad.
“My hands started shaking, and I just dropped my breakfast and started screaming and crying. I was shell-shocked for the first two days,” she said.
The senior, who will begin an English teaching assistantship in Germany in September, said German culture pervades her life at GW. She majors in the language, is a member of a German honors society and serves as a research assistant in the Department of Romance, German and Slavic Languages and Literatures.
She said she took her first German class to annoy her parents.
“They wanted me to take Spanish so I decided to take the opposite of that,” Kendall said. After discovering that she liked the language and was good at it, she spent her entire junior year abroad in Freiberg, Germany.
When she told her parents about winning the fellowship, she said her mother started crying, and her father had to pull his car over because he was celebrating.
Kendall believes her year abroad gave her an edge on the Fulbright application, something Director of the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research Paul Hoyt-O’Connor said can often be an advantage.
“People who have been [to a country] before generally bring a level of detail and vividness that somebody who hasn’t been there before has a tougher time doing,” Hoyt-O’Connor said.
By living in a dorm with native students, Kendall said she got the full German college experience.
“I really liked how old the culture is. Everything in the United States is so young, so going there and just seeing all the old buildings and the culture there was super fascinating,” Kendall said.
Kendall is an exception among GW Fulbright applicants, who tend to be international affairs majors looking to work in developing countries, Hoyt-O’Connor said.
This was true for GW’s two other Fulbright winners, who will both teach English in Indonesia this year. Shaylen Foley, a 2010 graduate, hopes to pursue a career in public health and Lauren Jacobson, a senior and former Hatchet reporter, is writing her thesis on national disaster campaigns and in particular, the effects of the tsunami in Indonesia.
Foley chose Indonesia because it allowed her to explore her interest in public health in developing South Asian countries. She works as an AmeriCorps member at a community health center in Adams Morgan. She also teaches yoga twice a week and tutors every Saturday through a nonprofit organization, For the Love of Children.
“I’ve definitely gotten a lot of insight into dealing with children and their learning experience,” Foley said.
Hoyt-O’Connor said, given the program’s budget cuts and growing interest nationally, “I think I’d be very, very happy if we ended up with 10 winners this year, just given the number of applications.”
This year, 42 students from GW competed for the Fulbright. Last year, GW ranked No. 12 nationally with 16 winners, a figure that Hoyt-O’Connor said could shrink as the program faces federal budget cuts.
Each country announces its winners on a rolling basis, and all decisions are typically handed down by mid-May.