UMW grads win Fulbright awards to teach overseas
Charlotte Kramer ’22 was still absorbing the first piece of news – that she’d received semifinalist status for a grant to live and work overseas – when a second email came through.
“I thought I was seeing things,” Kramer said of the message that upgraded her standing and meant she’d get to spend nearly a year in Bulgaria. “I think I understood, even if I couldn’t fully process, how life-changing that moment was.”
Kramer, who earned a degree in anthropology in May, is one of three recent University of Mary Washington grads to win a Fulbright award this year. The transformative U.S. government-sponsored honor, among the world’s most highly regarded, aims to boost cultural connections around the globe. But the journey for these alums – among the nearly 60 Fulbright finalists and semifinalists Mary Washington has produced throughout the years – began with the support and inspiration they found among faculty.
“They helped me navigate the whole process,” Kramer said of UMW’s Fulbright Advising Committee (FAC). Kramer will leave for Ruse, Bulgaria, later this year. Mary Cheney ’21, M.Ed. ’22, will head to South Korea and Theresa Darroch ’20 will go to Taiwan.
As the grads – all of whom will teach English abroad – plowed through paperwork, personal statements and essays, their advisors proofread their prose, conducted mock interviews and kept them on track. UMW’s “method of intense and individualized instruction is key to applicant success,” said Professor of History and American Studies Nabil Al-Tikriti, who co-chairs the FAC with Professor of Biology Dianne Baker.
Kramer transferred to UMW as a junior and jumped into campus life, joining the Student Government Association and earning admission to Phi Beta Kappa. She majored in anthropology after taking an elective and “falling in love” with the discipline, and she credits Associate Professor Laura Mentore with pushing her to excel.
“One of the things Fulbright emphasizes is cultural exchange,” Kramer said. “My degree really lends itself to making that the priority.”
Cheney majored in English, minored in linguistics and earned a master’s degree in elementary education, joining groups like Kappa Delta Pi and the Student Education Association. Her fascination for Korean culture was fueled by Associate Professor of English and Linguistics Janie Lee, who urged her to experience South Korea firsthand.
Armed with the in-classroom experience she began collecting as a Mary Washington freshman and a master’s thesis she wrote on strategies for teaching English language learners, Cheney plans to bring energy to the children she teaches in the East Asian nation. “I want them to get up and move and interact with language,” she said, “not just read out of a textbook.”
Theresa “Tess” Darroch ’20 majored in international affairs at UMW, where she took a kaleidoscope of classes, and studied abroad in London, Japan and South Africa. Since then, Darroch has taught English in France andHong Kong, and been accepted to a master’s program at King’s College London.
She’s put that on hold for now in favor of a Fulbright experience in Taiwan’s Penghu Islands, where she’ll practice her Mandarin and study the political scene. Two years past graduation, Darroch’s still in touch with Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Emerita Elizabeth Larus, who advised her to apply for the grant through Mary Washington.
“That’s the kind of energy you get from professors here,” Darroch said. “It translates in a way you can’t really describe. It gives students inspiration and dreams.”