Fulbrights take Rowan students, graduates around the globe

Fulbrights take Rowan students, graduates around the globe

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She might not meet Santa Claus in Lapland or see the Aurora Borealis or even catch the midnight sun, but Amanda Tursi already is experiencing quite a lot during her first time in Finland.

Tursi, who graduated from Rowan University in May with majors in biology and bioinformatics, minors in chemistry and German, and a concentration in the Thomas N. Bantivoglio Honors program, is one of two recent Rowan graduates who landed Fulbright Scholarships for the upcoming 2017-18 academic year.

Pursuing master's

The 22-year-old from Eatontown, New Jersey, will spend August through May on a Fulbright research grant to earn a master’s degree in digital health and life sciences with a focus on bioinformatics at the University of Turku, a two-hour train ride from Helsinki.

“It is pretty similar in setup to a master’s in the United States, with classes concerning the subject and a thesis completed in order to graduate,” said Tursi, who hopes to later get a job in bioinformatics in the United States or abroad.

Tursi heard about the Fulbright Program from past winners. “I thought it sounded like a great experience. I have been wanting to do it since the beginning of college,” she said.

The program not only is enabling her to pursue her education, it also is allowing her to fulfill some other dreams.

Experiencing another culture

“I wanted to experience life in another culture,” she said. “I studied abroad in Austria for a semester and really enjoyed the experience, so I was eager to go abroad again. I also figured that now -- when I am young and relatively responsibility free -- was the best time to live abroad, and I wasn't sure if I would get the chance again.”

She said she most is looking forward to meeting new people, experiencing new customs, trying new foods and just generally being immersed in the Finnish way of life.  

Tursi, who is living in student housing near campus and the center of town, is enjoying the shopping, the food (a lot of vegetarian fare that meshes well with her diet) and the people. She travelled to Helsinki for the official Fulbright orientation, where she met the president of Finland, and she will be in the country for the celebration of Finland’s 100 years of independence. 

Meanwhile, she said she’d like to encourage other Rowan students to submit an application, due in early October, for a Fulbright “because it is such a great opportunity to live abroad and pursue your interests while doing so.” 

Teaching abroad

Five thousand miles or so away from Finland, Nicole Wyglendowski has settled in as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Taiwan.

The 22-year-old from Washington (Warren County), New Jersey, graduated in May with a degree in elementary education and English, with a special education endorsement.

Slated to be in the Asian country through next June, Wyglendowski said, “I will never forget the feeling when I found out I was accepted in the Fulbright program. Every ounce of hard work I had put in at Rowan was worth it in that moment and every moment that has followed. Nothing has been as satisfying as setting a difficult goal, working for it for years, and meeting it.”

The Fulbright means much more to her than living in a foreign country for almost a year. “I pursued this because of my passion for education and my yearning to understand education from a global and culturally diverse standpoint. In other words, I want to know how the world operates their education system and the why behind their decisions. I hope to bring the positives back to my teaching career in America.”

Looking ahead

Wyglendowski said she is most looking forward to meeting all of the intelligent and diverse colleagues in the Fulbright Taiwan program. “I am anxious to meet my students and learn about the educational needs and systems in place in Asia and Taiwan in particular,” she said. 

Presently, she is living in Taitung, Taiwan, and she is working with a co-teacher to teach English in grades 1-6. She designs lessons and teaches her students about American culture via those lessons.

That, she said, will be good preparation for her future. Her professional goals include teaching in America after the Fulbright for many years while earning her master’s degree. She’d like to segue into higher education, earn her doctorate and teach at the university level. Eventually, she would like to become an administrator at a university and get involved in a teacher training program, bringing culturally responsive solutions and pedagogy to future teachers. 

Dr. Corinne Blake, associate professor of history and Rowan’s Fulbright Program advisor, said the two Fulbright winners are the 20th and 21st in the University’s history. She said of Tursi and Wyglendowski, who won the first-ever Rowan Fulbright grants to Finland and Taiwan, “Amanda and Nicole are truly outstanding students who have worked extremely hard to excel in their fields. I’m thrilled that they won these prestigious awards.”

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Paul Rothlauf, who earned his bachelor’s degree in biological sci­ences with a Bantivoglio Honors concentration, was waited listed for the Fulbright program in Scotland. He plans to attend Harvard University for a Ph.D. in virology.

Additionally, two undergraduates were accepted into the extremely competitive US-UK Fulbright Summer Institutes: Rachel Barton to England and Amy Ribinsky to Scotland.

Barton, 20, of Mount Ephraim, a junior English and writing arts major with an honors concentration, studied at the University of Sussex.

Ribinsky, 20, of Medford, a junior communication studies major with an honors concentration and minors in international studies and French, studied at the University of Strathclyde and Glasgow School of Art.