Merwin, Vang earn Fulbright ETA positions

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May 11, 2017

Kalie and Paige

Kalia Vang (left) and Paige Merwin

Photo: Tommy O'Laughlin '13

Two seniors from the College of Saint Benedict have received grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by the Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Paige Merwin and Kalia Vang received Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) awards for Taiwan and Thailand, respectively.

In the last four years, 22 students or graduates from CSB and Saint John’s University have earned Fulbright ETA awards.

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.

Merwin, an elementary education major from Isanti, Minnesota, felt she was a natural fit for the Taiwan program.

“I was in China (in the summer of 2015) so I had a draw toward the Taiwanese culture because it has a shared history,” Merwin said. “The Taiwan program also specifically works with elementary education students. Since I have a strong draw to work with young students, it fit best with who I am.”

When Merwin was in seventh grade, she had an exchange teacher from China live with her family for several months. That hooked her on Asian culture. When she enrolled at CSB, Merwin knew that “going abroad was on my bucket list.”

“I went abroad to Beijing in the summer of 2015 to teach English. It was awesome, and I wanted to do it again. So, Fulbright was a perfect fit,” Merwin said.

Vang, a political science major from St. Paul, Minnesota, studied abroad to China in fall 2015. Following the trip to China, she went to Vietnam and worked with Ethos, a non-governmental organization that worked with women and their children who had been forced into sex trafficking.

“I think China and Vietnam really changed my life – especially Vietnam,” Vang said. “After experiencing and talking and meeting with these groups, I realized that I wanted to help. I like helping people. I want to dedicate my life to public service.

“This is more of a spiritual thing for me, where I want to see how much my life will change within the year,” she said. “I think this is more of a moral thing for me.”

The Fulbright Program, established in 1946, is the flagship international educational program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and people of other countries.

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in over 160 countries.

CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2018-19 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU.