by Debra Johnson, Published May 03, 2012
YPSILANTI - Elyssa Winzeler, a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, has been awarded one of the coveted Fulbright grants for the 2012-2013 year to teach English in Poland beginning this fall.
The Fulbright program, named after Senator J. William Fulbright, was established in 1946 by the U.S. Congress to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The program offers U.S. students an opportunity to teach or conduct research abroad for an academic year. The grant covers their travel, insurance and a living stipend - enough to live comfortably in their respective countries on a modest budget.
Winzeler, 26, who is completing her masters in linguistics in the College of Arts and Sciences, will work as an English teaching assistant in the University of Warsaw's Institute of English Studies. She will join almost 1,700 students who have been offered Fulbright Program grants this year to study, teach English and conduct research in over 140 countries throughout the world.
The Fulbright program is the largest U.S. international educational exchange program of its kind. The program also offers scholars and professionals the opportunity to undertake international graduate study, conduct advanced research or teach in universities, elementary and secondary schools worldwide.
"I am really proud of our EMU Fulbrighters," said Carla Damiano, the University's Fulbright Program Advisor and a professor of German. "They have proven that they are competitive on the national level, and so far, the success rate for Fulbright grants awarded to EMU students is very encouraging."
Winzeler has been to Poland three times in the past three years. During her first trip in 2009, she attended a linguistic summer school called Eastern Generative Grammar, located in Poznan, a city in west-central Poland.
"That is when I fell in love with the country," said Winzeler. "I've been to many countries, and to so many stunning, gilded cities such as Vienna and Paris. But for me, Poland was different. It possessed so much beauty and complex history, yet was also unassuming. I've had the opportunity to present at conferences, assist in English lessons, and find out about my family's heritage. These connections have made Poland feel like home to me."
Winzeler will relocate to Poland along with her husband and daughter for the academic year. She hopes to study Polish while observing language education in the country and will seek volunteer opportunities with the U.S. Diplomatic Missions to Poland.
"I'm really quite lucky - not only do I get to experience another culture for an entire year, but I will be able to share this experience with my family," said Winzeler. "My daughter will start kindergarten in Europe. As a linguist, I know that while I'll need to study Polish, she'll have native-like fluency in just a matter of months. It's really incredible. I plan to write a blog to record her linguistic development while staying in touch with my family and friends back home."
Winzeler joins three fellow EMU Fulbright grant recipients currently abroad. The 2011-2012 recipients are: Sara F. Kennedy, (Spain); and Renee Dean, (Oman), both graduate students studying TESOL (teachers of English to speakers of other languages) in the Department of World Languages, and Daniel P. Hayes, (Korea), a graduate student studying integrated sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. Hayes is sharing his experiences as he explores the beautiful countryside and culture of South Korea through his blog "A Journey Into Korea Blog."
"So many of my dreams are being realized by this one opportunity," Winzeler said. "I have always wanted to live outside of the country and I've always wanted to teach. As someone who truly believes that many of our economic and social issues arise from failings in education, I look forward serving as an American ambassador while working with another education system.
"When I consider the full magnitude of this honor, I literally shake with excitement. I guess you could say I'm pretty happy."
The Institute of International Education and the Fulbright Program's sponsor, the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, congratulated Eastern Michigan University on being named one of this year's Fulbright Scholarship "top producers" for the 2011-2012 academic year, a designation that goes to universities that are among the top producers of Fulbright scholarships in their academic category. Top-producing institutions in all Carnegie Classifications were highlighted in the October 24 digital edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.
"A Fulbright year abroad is a life-changing experience," said Damiano. "The grant competition opened May 1 for 2013-2014 Fulbright grant opportunities. I hope to see more students apply this year and I look forward to guiding them through the submission process."