July 12, 2016
By Tommy Benson '17
Most students who receive a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award travel the world with minimal preparation and little experience to go on. They must quickly adapt to their surroundings while at the same time learning how to teach English to students.
Paul Park '16, however, is an exception.
Park, who graduated with a degree in Asian studies, will be using the Fulbright award to travel to Thailand, where he will spend a year as head of a classroom teaching his students English.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program places recent college graduates as English Teaching Assistants in schools and universities overseas. The ETAs improve international students' English abilities and knowledge of the U.S., while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country. ETAs may also pursue individual study/research plans in addition to their teaching responsibilities.
Having been born to Korean immigrants and raised in Irving, Texas, (located between Dallas and Fort Worth) it was a journey in itself arriving as a first generation college student to Collegeville. What's more, by utilizing the study abroad program at CSB and SJU, he was able to extend his reach even further with the China program.
"SJU has given me the confidence to go out of my comfort zone. Coming from Dallas, I never expected to go 1,000 miles away and to study abroad in China. It's been a real blessing. They [CSB/SJU] gave me so many opportunities to succeed and Fulbright is another experience," Park said.
Intercultural LEAD is another one of those opportunities that Park utilized in preparation for his Fulbright experience. This fellowship program provides support for talented first-generation students to build on the leadership skills they already demonstrated within their high schools and home communities.
"I participated in Intercultural Lead freshman year, then I was a counselor for the upcoming freshman class my sophomore year. It set the precedent for further participation. In my senior year I was about as active as I could be in related events," Park said.
Additionally, he routinely work 40 hours a week during his summers to help teach international Korean students in a local church in Dallas. Then, in summer 2015 before his senior year at SJU, he was the director of the Japanese teaching program affiliated with Okisho Junior and Senior High School, where students from the school in Okinawa, Japan, traveled to SJU to learn American culture from Park and his staff.
With ancestral and teaching connections to Korea and experiences with China and Japan, Thailand was another stepping stone to Park's immersion into East Asia.
"I chose Fulbright because Thailand was a country I never would have gone to otherwise. Only through Fulbright would I go there, with our connections being so good with that country," Park said.
Even being a veteran of running his own classroom, as he has done in Dallas, Collegeville and China, and having traveled to multiple Asian countries, there will still be some aspects of life in Thailand he will have to get used to.
"There's the new culture I have to get assimilated with — new food, understanding the way people live there. It will be a whole new lifestyle. I'm so used to driving wherever and buying Jordans [shoes] whenever I want them. But I'm truly blessed and really excited to teach a whole year in Thailand," Park said.
CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2017-18 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU, or Jeff Anderson, associate professor of peace studies.