The waiting was the hardest part: Cwikla’s patience rewarded with Fulbright award

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May 17, 2018

By Mike Killeen

Editor’s note: This is the first of six feature stories that will appear this summer on the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University graduates who received awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Up first: Allison Cwikla.

There’s an old saying that says good things happen for those who wait.

Allison Cwikla found that to be true this spring.

Allison  CwicklaThe 2018 graduate of the College of Saint Benedict applied for an award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by the Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Cwikla wanted to be an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Indonesia.

“When I received an email stating I was an alternate for an award, I was bummed,” said Cwikla, from Fargo, North Dakota, who received a degree in psychology on May 12. “I had waited months, and it was like hearing, ‘You would do well, but we need more funding, so we’ll see what happens’ and the waiting continued.

“Regardless, I took this as a pat on the back but also as a ‘no,’ ” she recalled. In the meantime, she found a position as a social worker in Minneapolis, “so this relieved any stress.”

Eventually, Cwikla’s status was updated. She is headed to Indonesia July 22 to teach secondary students (ages 12-18).

Her decision to apply for the Indonesian program stemmed from several factors. Throughout the 2017-18 academic year, she was involved with Cultural Bridges, a program integrating Somali refugees into the St. Joseph, Minnesota, community.

“This program introduced me to the Muslim culture, and I became interested in learning more about their culture through a first-hand experience,” Cwikla said. “Indonesia consists of a population that primarily practices Islam, so this first attracted me to the country.”

When she investigated the Indonesia Fulbright program a little more, she “fell in love” with the intense cultural immersion it incorporates.

“Indonesia is an overpopulated, diverse and warm place. All of those contrast to my home in North Dakota,” Cwikla said. “This will be a challenge, but that’s what I was looking for.”

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.

Cwikla is one of six CSB and Saint John’s University graduates to receive a Fulbright ETA award this year. Since 2013, 29 students or graduates from CSB and SJU have earned Fulbright ETA awards.

The Fulbright award is important to Cwikla because she believes in the power of education.

“This program is about empowering the youth of Indonesia and strengthening their English skills,” Cwikla said. “After taking a Youth Ministry course this past spring semester, I have gained insight into how essential it is for youth to have mentors.

“I know English and education will take them further in their lives, so it is important to me to use my teaching, discussion and community involvement skills to further develop those things,” she said.

 Cwikla said she is looking forward to her stay.

“I know I am going to experience a lot of discomfort, and from this will stem a lot of growth,” she said. “It will be exciting to be constantly learning in a setting much different than a classroom. I am also looking forward to exploring a new area of natural beauty.”

CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2019-20 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU, or Lindsey Gutsch, program assistant for undergraduate research and competitive scholarships at CSB and SJU.

Learn more about undergraduate research opportunities