John Beckius ’18 keeps Fulbright ETA award all in the family

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July 11, 2018

By Mike Killeen

Editor’s note: This feature story on John Beckius ’18 is the fifth of seven feature stories that will appear this summer on the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University website featuring graduates who received awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

John BeckiusFour years ago, John Beckius ’18 heard his sister Heather ’14 talk about her Fulbright Award.

“Heather described her Fulbright experience in southern Brazil as life-changing,” John Beckius said.

That’s why John Beckius didn’t hesitate to apply for the award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by the Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in South Korea. He began his orientation training July 8.

“She very much influenced my decision to apply for a Fulbright,” John said of Heather. “After hearing about her wonderful experiences abroad and the opportunities it led to thereafter, such as graduate school, it was a no-brainer that I had to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“On a personal level, she met so many friends who welcomed and helped her abroad and these friendships influenced her to connect more openly with people from around the world upon her return. On a professional level, her experience with learning Portuguese and shadowing Brazilian speech-language pathologists will influence her career as a multi-cultural speech-language pathologist,” John Beckius said.

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.

This year, seven CSB and SJU graduates received the Fulbright awards. In the last five years, 30 students or graduates from CSB and SJU have earned Fulbright ETA awards. (Beckius was a late addition to the group.)

Beckius chose South Korea for two reasons. His mother is of Korean ethnicity, and Beckius hopes to learn more and get in touch with that heritage.

“The Fulbright in South Korea allows the perfect opportunity to learn more about my Korean background through spending a year there studying Korean as a second language, eating Korean dishes and being exposed to Korean culture,” he said. “I will also finally meet my Korean relatives for the first time. My mother has a sister who resides in Seoul, and I plan to travel there at some point to meet her and her children.”

His second reason revolves around a potential career as an industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologist, a professional who strives to study and improve quality of life in the workplace.

“(The award) motivates me to understand the cultural differences between Koreans and Americans as the two countries are major trade partners for one another,” Beckius said.  “South Korea has undergone tremendous and impressive economic growth in recent decades and is now a global leader of business, technology, education and pop culture industries.

“With globalization on the rise, cross-cultural leadership is needed in organizations and require professionals like I-O psychologists to understand and meet the needs of employers, employees and customers on an international level,” he said.

Attempting to improve intercultural relations and competence is why the Fulbright program is important, Beckius said. He has witnessed the wonders of cultural exchange through his parents.

“To fully understand and immerse oneself into the diverse world, one must learn from, engage with and experience life with others who are of a different cultural background,” Beckius said.

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.