Self-discovery is a pivotal point in all lives. In learning about ourselves, we learn about the world around us and the communities that helped to shape who we are. Ashley Sorenson'18, Patrick Fraser'17, and Macy Tran'17 each recently received a prestigious scholarship, but said they were also excited to begin this journey of discovering themselves and their new communities along the way.
Patrick, an international relations major, says his major was a "happy accident," combining all his interests into one. He began to explore applying for a Fulbright scholarship after his study abroad semester in Brussels, Belgium.
"With the world changing as it is, I think it's more and more important to have a global mindset," he says. "It was just an interesting opportunity to learn about the country. Fulbright is all about cultural exchange."
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is named for Sen. J. William Fulbright, and is funded by the United States Department of Education. It is awarded to more than 1,500 students every year and its goal is to increase friendly and peaceful relationships between the United States and other countries by fostering an exchange of culture.
Through Fulbright, Patrick will be in Malaysia as an English teaching assistant – a skill he has honed through his volunteer work with the Stateline Literacy Council in Beloit.And even though he'll be the one teaching, he's more than willing to learn.
"I think oftentimes when people travel abroad on service trips the objective is to go somewhere in the short term and help out, but not have that much community investment. I see this as less of 'I'm coming here to help you' and more of the opportunity to talk. Fulbright is all about cultural exchange," he says.
For Macy, Fulbright presents an opportunity to learn more about herself. The health and society major says she wrestled between returning to Senegal, where she'd previously studied abroad, or heading to her parent's home country of Vietnam.
"I spent a big part of my life pushing away my Vietnamese identity in order to feel included in White middle-class suburbia. In my junior and senior years, I've really delved into what it means to be Vietnamese-American and Asian-American," she says.
As an English teaching assistant in Vietnam, Macy says she's eager to pick up the language again and learn more about the land her parents, who are refugees, left behind.
Ashley, a double political science and critical identity studies major, was also influenced by her upbringing when she decided to apply for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship.Growing up in rural South Dakota, Ashley says she saw the way policies affected her single mom and community.
"I've always been interested in how rural poverty affects communities. It caused me to think about the policies and who's making them," she says.
During high school, Ashley participated in the Young Elected Legislative Leaders program, a mock legislature program for high school students.
It was during the Young Elected Legislative Leaders program that she first learned of the scholarship, which provides $30,000 for graduate school studies in public service fields. The Foundation was created in 1975 as a way to honor President Harry S. Truman. This year there were a record number of 768 candidates, with 62 students receiving the award.
Ashley says she eventually hopes to open a think tank in her home state that works with social movements and addresses poverty through an intersectional lens.
Needless to say, these three ripe young minds are eager for their adventures ahead. Each will go out and share their expertise and knowledge with the world, gaining even more skills as they undergo this process of self-discovery.
Any potential future Beloit applicants for these scholarships are urged to contact Rachel Ellett or Matthew Taylor for further information.