Nine Wellesley Alumnae Begin a Year Abroad as Recipients of Fulbright Grants

2017 Fulbright winners
October 24, 2017

Nine Wellesley alumnae recently embarked upon a year of study, research, or teaching English abroad thanks to grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The exchange program, which began in 1946, was designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other nations.

“We’re thrilled that these nine alumnae were selected for this prestigious award, which aligns so well with the value Wellesley places on diversity and the College’s stated mission to emphasize the exploration of unfamiliar viewpoints and experiences,” said Katherine Dailinger, program director for fellowships. “We know that these talented women will take their Wellesley educations and the leadership skills and compassion they have developed here on campus into their work and everyday interactions, no matter where they go.”

Congratulations to these Wellesley alumnae, who emailed us with details and initial thoughts about their Fulbright-sponsored projects.

Lizamaria Arias ’17, international relations–political science major, awarded an English teaching assistantship in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

“I am constantly reminded of Atticus Finch’s famous proclamation that ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’ At a time in our history when we are seeing so much conflict and a blatant lack of empathy, living outside the familiar confines of my life in the U.S. has been an eye-opening, humbling experience and an opportunity for personal growth and reflection. I look forward to seeing how this experience continues to challenge my perceptions and the way in which I interact with the world around me.”

Wenbo Bai ’16, anthropology major, awarded an English teaching assistantship in Taitung City, Taiwan

“I hope this year will help me better understand the intersection between education and global health: How do young people translate their knowledge into action? How does motivation affect behavioral change? Every day I am humbled by Taiwan’s beauty, amazing cuisine, and most of all, the kindness of the Taiwanese people.”

Isabelle Chen ’17, English (creative writing) and French double major, awarded an English teaching assistantship in Perpignan, France

“When I studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence last year, I was particularly interested in how Americans were viewed abroad. For instance, with regard to my ethnicity, some were interested in the fact that I was half-Chinese, but many more were surprised that I was an American of nonwhite descent. Perpignan is a city with more racial diversity, so I’m wondering how my experience will be different this time. Also, I would like to be a language professor myself one day, so I’m grateful for this first chance to teach in a classroom.”

Chitti Desai ’17, international relations–economics major, awarded a research grant at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology in Trondheim

“I became interested in the design process as a means for social impact after doing fieldwork in Zambia, during my junior year, where I co-led workshops teaching the design process to farmers, makers, and entrepreneurs to help them innovate solutions to challenges confronting their communities. Now I am working to understand how the government can adopt design-thinking to effect social change at the systemic level. I think my Fulbright year will challenge my understanding of society and how it can change, and make me a more independent person and scholar.” 

Ioana Economos ’17, double major in economics and Chinese language and culture, awarded an English teaching assistantship in Athens, Greece

“As an active proponent of sustainable development, I hope to use my financial literacy to help Greek microfinance institutions and nonprofit organizations during my time here. The Fulbright program challenges its grantees to become impactful citizens of the world and to bridge cultural divisions by celebrating both our commonalities and differences. This is an important time to be in Greece, and I expect to learn a lot from a society recovering from a severe economic depression. I hope that I will be able to contribute to this dynamic effort.

Anne Shen ’17, biology major, awarded a research grant to study honey bee ecology in the Japoshvili lab at the Georgian Agrarian University in Tbilisi, Georgia 

“I had the privilege of working in the honey bee lab at Wellesley for three and a half years with Professor Heather Mattila, and I think both my coursework at Wellesley and lab experience have prepared me well to work with honey bees in a new setting. Honey bees native to the Caucasus region (Caucasian honey bees) have unique characteristics, such as the longest tongues of all known honey bees. In nature, these physical characteristics adaptations are frequently accompanied by behavioral adaptations, and I am interested in studying the Caucasian bees’ behavioral adaptations to their native environment.”

Isabelle St. Clair ’17, peace and justice studies major, awarded an English teaching assistantship in Hualien, Taiwan

“It’s exciting to be a teacher at the head of the classroom, but it’s not a one-way flow of information. My students are also my teachers; they are so open about sharing their lives, and they challenge me to think and teach in new ways. Besides teaching English, I also get to share with my students American culture—anything from Halloween to [details about] my family. For many of my students, I am the first American they’ve worked with, so I play a big role in shaping their understanding of the United States.”

Megumi Takada ’17, neuroscience major and teaching and learning studies minor, also received elementary teaching license, awarded an English teaching assistantship in Sejong City, South Korea

“Going beyond the textbook that I am expected to use, I am trying to set up an online platform that will connect my students in Sejong City to those at my student teaching placement in Boston. I am also excited to introduce my students to some quality children’s literature, an interest that emerged through taking Professor Susan Meyer’s course Writing for Children and Diane Tutin’s course Child Literacy and the Teaching of Reading. By living in South Korea, listening to the people here, and building strong relationships with my host family, colleagues, and students, I hope to gain a more well-rounded understanding of this country and, more broadly speaking, many lenses through which to view the world.”

Isabel Yu ’17, double major in cognitive and linguistic sciences and East Asian studies, awarded an English teaching assistantship in Mokpo, South Korea

“This year, I plan on learning what it means to be a foreign immigrant and a minority, what it means to be a teacher, and what it means to be a cultural ambassador trying to help connect two vastly different cultures. This is an experience that I believe will shape and build my character, better preparing me for law school and to become a bridge between cultures.”


Pictured: (top row, left to right) Isabelle Chen ’17, Chitti Desai ’17, Ioana Economos ’17, Isabel Yu ’17, and Lizamaria Arias ’17; (bottom row) Megumi Takada ’17, Anne Shen ’17, Wenbo Bai ’16, and Isabelle St. Clair ’17

For information about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and other awards, visit the Wellesley Fellowship Office.