Wilkinson Alumni Awarded Fulbright to South Korea
May 2, 2023
Sarah Wilson (’22, B.A. English and ’23, M.A. Curriculum and Instruction) was recently awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to South Korea.
“I was so excited to find out that I had received the award! I can’t even fully put it into words,” said Wilson.
Fulbright is the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange program in the world, one of several United States Cultural Exchange Programs with the goal of improving intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence between the people of the United States and other countries, through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills.
Throughout college, Wilson became passionate about female educational access: learning more about education for girls in other countries, deconstructing the barriers that prohibit educational access, and investigating potential laws and legislation in the intersection of gender and educational equity.
“[M]y passion stemmed from the educational gaps I have witnessed in generations of women in my own family history,” she said. “While in my host country, I plan on creating a joint weekly book club and writing program for girls in my host community. This program encourages creative writing, teaches writing structures, and helps students learn about vocabulary, semantics, etc. Ultimately, this program empowers girls to continue to discover and share their voice through reading and writing English.”
Wilson is currently in the Master of Arts Curriculum and Instruction program at Chapman and will be graduating in May, earning her Master’s degree and teaching credentials. Along with her studies, she teaches at a local middle school in Orange and works as a Chapman Ambassador and Resident Advisor.
When you apply for Fulbright, you are required to apply for a specific program (research, study, or an English Teaching Assistantship) in one specific country. Wilson applied for an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in South Korea.
“As more time passes, the waiting game becomes more and more tense. The night before I found out that I received the award, I actually had a dream that I had won a Fulbright. I woke up the next morning and life continued as normal, but then later that afternoon, I found out the results. I started sobbing and hyperventilating, and my best friends had to count for me to take deep breaths. Then, I had them ask me a question to make sure I wasn’t still dreaming,” she said.
Her inspiration for applying to South Korea was due to her personal family heritage. Here is an excerpt from Wilson’s personal statement that embodies her decision.
“My grandmother, Soonhyun Kim, did not have a formal education in South Korea beyond sixth grade, which is the grade I now teach in the United States 81 years later. When I tutored English and a college and career preparatory class, I was reminded that she was never able to experience learning in a middle or high school classroom. No one in my family history has been a teacher, but educational opportunities – or more accurately the lack thereof – have directly impacted the lives of women in my family, my cultural lens, and my goals as both a master’s student and educator.
While my grandmother did not attend school beyond sixth grade, my mother was a first-generation college student. Now, I have the opportunity to be the first individual and female in my family to earn a graduate degree. Along with their lessons of the value of grit and perseverance, the women in my family have kept my Korean heritage alive.”
Receiving a Fulbright has been one of Wilson’s goals for the past few years, and the application process was an extensive part of this year. Wilson is not sure of her exact departure date, but she does know it will be in some time in January 2024 for one year.
“I feel proud that my determination and hard work truly paid off; it’s one of the best feelings in the world to witness your dream become reality. Ultimately, I feel grateful: I have so many friends, family members, and mentors that supported me throughout this entire process. Previous professors and employers wrote me letters of recommendation and reviewed my application, and Dr. Bidmead (Religious Studies) at the Center for Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) was also an invaluable resource. I am thankful that I have so many people in my corner cheering me on; this is truly more priceless than any award.”