Eva Laun-Smith lands prestigious Fulbright Student Award

Eva Laun-Smith’21 is one of two Beloit graduates to receive a Fulbright Student Award this year. A history major and decorated track and field and volleyball athlete, Eva graduated with highest honors from Beloit. 

Eva Laun-Smith’21 will join this year’s cohort of approximately 2,000 U.S. recipients of the prestigious Fulbright Student Award. A history major from Beloit, Eva will teach English in South Korea alongside educators from around the country for a year, starting in January 2022.

The road to South Korea has not been easy in the time of Covid. Eva applied for the Fulbright grant back in the fall when prospects for the pandemic looked grim. Even as vaccines began to take effect across the country and the world, Eva was reluctant to believe that travel to Korea would even be possible within the next year.

Very recently, she had to make a tough choice. She also applied for the Japan Exchange and Teaching program (JET for short). In early May—while she finished the first draft of her history senior capstone paper and delivered her presentation about it at Beloit’s Student Symposium—she found out, just hours apart, that she was accepted into both Fulbright and JET. She chose Fulbright, which provided more support.

“I have been wanting to go to South Korea for a really long time,” says Eva. “With Fulbright being a more distinguished program in the U.S., I decided that’s the program I wanted to do.”

Even before she accepted the award, Eva had been talking to her cohort’s three other incoming Black women scholars, in addition to Beloit alumna Audrey Summers’18, who taught in South Korea on a Fulbright and served as a resource over Eva’s year-long application process.

“I initially felt like I was not going to know what to do when I got there because almost everybody else is an English major or has gotten their degree in international education,” Eva says. But she soon realized she already had the skills to succeed.

“Fulbright prepares its ETAs [English Teaching Assistants] very thoroughly,” she says. “You go through a TEFL [Teaching English as a Foreign Language] certification program, in-class practice, and take Korean language courses.”

Eva received her TEFL certification over the summer, so she was already a step ahead. Her experiences as an RA, a leader in Black Students United and sorority Theta Pi Gamma, and a tireless team player on the track and field and volleyball teams, combined with her genuine interest in the Korean language and culture, placed her in the perfect position to grow and thrive in South Korea.

“Being a history major has taught me how to do research, so I know that if I’m lesson-planning for a grammar point I’m not that strong on, I’m going to figure it out before I even step foot in that classroom and teach it to my students,” Eva says.

She also hopes to utilize the cultural awareness and appreciation she developed as an RA. “I don’t know if I’m going to be at a primary or secondary school. Obviously, with primary school kids, those conversations are a lot different, and even with secondary school students, they’re not native English speakers. I think I am going to incorporate talking about identity in the classroom.”

In the meantime, Eva will continue to work over the summer in the College Archives. She hopes to teach abroad for another year or two after Fulbright, then return to the States to pursue a master’s degree in library science with a focus on archives, public history, or education. But that’s a decision for another day.

“I think Beloit has taught me that anything is as good as you make it,” she says. “Going into this program, I’m just going to make it the best experience that I can.”

Meg Kulikowski’21
May 25, 2021

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