Fulbright Program opens a world of opportunity for UofSC students

What are your plans following graduation? Have you ever considered traveling to a foreign country to teach a class of eager students, earn a graduate degree or conduct research with industry experts?

Imagine teaching English in Taiwan, studying for a business degree in France or researching contagious diseases in the United Kingdom. Imagine being able to pursue your dreams in an exciting new setting without worrying about relocation expenses. The Fulbright program makes this possible for more than 1,900 American scholars each year.

Last month, the university’s Office of Fellowship and Scholar Programs in the South Carolina Honors College, along with the Office of the Provost, had a panel of Fulbright scholars share their stories and offer advice to students.

President Harris Pastides, a 2016 recipient of the IIE Global Changemaker Award, moderated the panel, which included faculty and alumni. Pastides was a Fulbright scholar in 1987 and conducted epidemiology research at the University of Athens Medical School in Greece.

The event, part of International Education Week, featured a panel of four individuals connected to both the Fulbright Program and the university. George Kontopidis, a visiting international Fulbright scholar from Greece, is conducting research in the School of Pharmacy. James Hébert, a professor in the Arnold School of Public Health, served as a faculty Fulbright to India. Leila Chelbi, an international Fulbright student scholar from Tunisia, is working on a master's degree in mass communications. Christina Galardi, a South Carolina Honors College and journalism alumna, completed a student Fulbright teaching assistantship to Korea after she graduated in 2012.

The Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 scholars with opportunities to study, teach and conduct research in foreign nations since 1946. The program offers grants that include the cost of round-trip transportation to the host country, funding for housing and health benefits. The Fulbright U.S. student award is open to students, artists and young professionals from all fields of study, and it operates in more than 140 countries around the world.

As a Fulbright scholar, Galardi taught middle school students in South Korea before earning a dual master’s degree in public health and city planning from the University of North Carolina. She now works as a project manager for the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

We caught up with Galardi to ask more about her experience with the Fulbright Program and to offer tips for students to learn more.

How did your participation in the Fulbright Program impact you?

“I participated in a Maymester through the Honors College but never had an immersive experience abroad before participating in Fulbright. I gained a completely new perspective about other cultures, reflected on my identity and values and challenged the boundaries of my comfort zone. My experience left me with great memories, like learning a traditional Korean instrument and seeing all of the country’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and some new habits, like seeking out public transportation as much as possible or eating kimchi. But most importantly, the experience enabled me to be a more engaged global citizen and an ambassador for mutual understanding and connections across our differences.”

What can Carolina students gain from being a Fulbright scholar?

“I chose to participate in a teaching assistantship because I wanted to practice the skill of teaching others. Leading a classroom has direct applications for being a strong communicator in any field, and after teaching English to international students I can deliver better presentations that focus on key concepts for audiences at any level. I have used some of the teaching practices from my time as a Fulbright scholar to coach community service leaders as a graduate assistant and to train public health professionals in technology for data analysis. Besides skill development, Fulbright also will connect students with a deep network of scholars from the US and abroad.”

How does UofSC help students apply to the Fulbright Program?

“Carolina students are very fortunate to have the Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs. Not every university has such great staff that is supportive of students applying for their programs. They walk them through every stage of the process, provide feedback on their applications, introduce them to people who already have participated in the program to ask questions, review their statements and look at past applications. They really support them through the process, so students should take advantage of those resources that are here.”

Galardi says serving as a camp counselor and an international student mentor helped prepare her for a Fulbright teaching assistantship. The university offers several opportunities to prepare students for immersive international experiences. For example, undergraduate students can conduct research through the Office of Undergraduate Research, take classes to become certified in teaching English or participate in the Peace Corps Prep Program.

To learn more and take your first step toward becoming a Fulbright scholar, visit the Office of Fellowships and Scholar Programs. The Office of International Student Services provides assistance and resources for visiting international Fulbright student scholars.

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