Alexandria Sethares ’15, a business administration major from East Falmouth, Massachusetts, has been selected for a 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Student Award to South Korea as an English Teaching Assistant.
Sethares won the highly competitive award from the United States’ flagship international educational exchange program after a lengthy screening process by committees in the U.S. as well as in South Korea. The program begins in July with a six-week orientation program of intensive Korean language and cultural study and ESL training.
Sethares will be immersed in Korean culture during her Fulbright year, teaching English in an elementary school and most likely staying with a Korean family — an experience she is eager to take on.
Two years ago, she spent a semester studying abroad in Rome, Italy. One of her favorite parts of that experience, she says, was teaching English to third graders twice a week at Pistelli Elementary School. She has also worked in an English literacy program with children in Port Richmond, Staten Island, an area with a large immigrant population from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
It was an earlier cultural exchange, during her high school years, that first sparked Sethares’ interest in South Korea.
“A South Korean exchange student to my high school brought me a CD copy of all the ‘K-pop’ music she owned,” Sethares recalls. “I fell down the rabbit hole of experiencing another culture through indulging in its media.”
Korean pop music — K-pop — has become a global phenomenon, particularly throughout East and Southeast Asia but also in other parts of the world. Wanting to understand the cultural references in K-pop, Sethares started studying the language on her own. She progressed to exploring other elements of Korean culture; she’s a fan of South Korean comedy television, for instance.
“I often sound out Korean billboards on the subway, wishing I were in a situation where I could practice daily,” she says.
A flutist who helped revive Wagner’s marching band during the past 2 years, Sethares hopes to use music to relate to her South Korean students and community during her Fulbright year.
Sethares is the second member of the Wagner community selected to receive a Fulbright this year. Chemistry professor Mohammad Alauddin received a Fulbright Specialist Grant in Chemistry Education to the Independent University in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In addition, Sethares is the second student in as many years to receive a Fulbright ETA position. Last year, Kellie Griffith ’14 was selected to be a Fulbright ETA in Ecuador.
Fulbright award recipients represent the U.S. as cultural ambassadors, enhancing mutual understanding between Americans and people around the world. More than 100,000 Americans have undertaken these grants since the program began in 1948.