Rowan senior wins Fulbright to teach English in South Korea


In middle school, Rachel Kelly spent parts of two consecutive summers working with children in the ghettos of Venezuela.

The summer before her freshman year at Rowan University, she did the same ne

In middle school, Rachel Kelly spent parts of two consecutive summers working with children in the ghettos of Venezuela.

The summer before her freshman year at Rowan University, she did the same near Dublin, Ireland.

So, truth be told, staying in America to attend graduate school right out of college wasn't really a consideration for the inveterate world traveler.

"If I had stayed home and just gone off to grad school...that, to me, was just so easy," says Kelly, who has received a prestigious Fulbright Program scholarship to teach English as a second language to children in South Korea.

"The Fulbright is going to be a huge challenge every day. That's what stokes me."

Kelly, who will teach in South Korea for a year beginning in July, is the seventh Rowan student in the past seven years--and the third student from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences over the past two years--to receive a Fulbright.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the highly competitive international exchange program provides talented students with grants to study abroad. Kelly will be involved with the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships Program, which places awardees in over 20 countries.

For Kelly, who recently learned she also was chosen for the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program, an honor she had to decline in order to accept the Fulbright, the chance to teach and study in another culture, and to live with a host family, made South Korea an appealing choice.

"Living with a host family stood out for me. I want to be 100 percent immersed in the culture. I want to taste, smell, touch, hear and see every piece of a world that I have never sensed before," says Kelly, a Lincoln Park resident and 2003 graduate of DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne, who will receive her bachelor's degree in English, with a minor in political science, from Rowan on May 11.

The opportunity to work with children also was appealing. While Kelly speaks no Korean, children have a universal language, she says. And she's buoyed by the fact that she has done mission work with children in Venezuela and Ireland through her church, Jacksonville Chapel in Lincoln Park.

In each country, her groups organized daily "Kids Camps" and nightly outreach programs. That included everything from organizing puppet shows to playing "futbol" with children in a Venezuelan orphanage to skateboarding on the outskirts of Dublin with at-risk Irish teens.

"With children, there's no prejudice, no limitations. There are no barriers with them. They just want to learn," says Kelly.

"By traveling to help the people of both nations, I learned essential skills about the world, such as the value of culture, the gap between rich and poor, and the need for improved education."

Kelly, who has been on the dean's list every semester of her college career, attended Rowan through two, four-year scholarships: The Profs Merit and Service Award, given to students for exceptional community service; and the Rowan University Trustee Scholarship, which is based on superior academic achievements.

She's served as a resident assistant at Rowan and is a member of both the Golden Key International Honor society and of Sigma Tau Delta, the international honor society for English majors.

"Rachel has the intelligence, tact, sensitivity and resourcefulness to make her Fulbright project a wonderfully rewarding experience for her host country and for herself," says Rowan English professor Catherine W. Parrish. "She'll do a wonderful job teaching English to South Korean school children."

Kelly has a keen interest in politics, art and culture. She's considering studying museum studies at the graduate level in the future and is relishing the chance to be exposed to "the creative aspects of Asian art.

"South Korea is rare in the sense that there's a common heritage shared by almost all of its 48 million citizens," she says. "That type of ethnic community is attractive to me from artistic and political standpoints."

She's not at all nervous about her Fulbright experience.

"Since I was in middle school, I've always wanted to see things, to see the world," says Kelly, who recently returned to Rowan after a three-and-a-half-week backpacking trip in Europe.

"Having new types of adventures is really what I'm all about. Hopefully, my students in South Korea will think I'm pretty cool."