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Life After Fulbright W&L alumni’s Fulbright experiences expand their worldviews and shape their post-graduate careers.

Julia-with-her-students-600x400 Life After FulbrightJulia Poppenberg ’19 (right) with some of her students in Mendoza, Argentina.

Washington and Lee University prepares its students to become engaged global citizens, encouraging them to pursue opportunities that emphasize thoughtful leadership and meaningful change. A highlight of W&L’s commitment to global connection is the work done by our Office of Fellowships, which places students and alumni in prestigious fellowship and scholarship positions around the world. A testament to its students’ ambitions, W&L was recently named a top producer of 2023-2024 U.S. Fulbright students for the sixth year in a row, with 13 students and alumni accepting a grant through the Fulbright Program to pursue impactful leadership opportunities while building global connections.

Through their Fulbright grants, W&L alumni are greeted with numerous opportunities to advance their research, expand their worldviews and make meaningful connections in the communities they visit. Their experiences abroad, spent engaging with a wide range of people, places and cultures, leave a lasting impact on their post-graduate lives and career paths.

One of the most meaningful experiences for Julia Poppenberg ’19 was being able to practice her Spanish and gain a better understanding of how languages are learned. She received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Argentina and taught classes related to education, phonetics and tourism at La Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mendoza. Following graduation, Poppenberg joined PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwC) as an associate in financial services and has returned to PwC following her 10-month tenure in Argentina in 2022.

Poppenberg quickly discovered that the Spanish vocabulary typically taught in the United States did not always match the vocabulary used in Argentina, and through her teaching, she learned more about the challenges of learning English as a second language. Poppenberg was also able to expand her language skills through her community outreach project, a requirement of all ETA placements. Her assignment was to translate restaurant menus in Mendoza from Spanish to English, a project that happily merged her interest in the Spanish language and her love for Argentinian food.

“I had never considered the ways in which having Spanish as your first language may lend itself to certain mistakes when you’re learning English as your second language,” she said. “I never understood how much more rigorous and vital learning English is in other countries than learning another language in the United States is.”

Running also quickly became a way for Poppenberg to explore Mendoza, and she ran her third marathon just two months into her Fulbright experience, bringing her closer to her goal to run a marathon on each continent having now completed one in North America, Europe, South America and Oceania.

Julia-after-marathon-scaled-533x400 Life After FulbrightJulia completed her third marathon during her time in Argentina.

The chance to become immersed in a local community and its culture was also a highlight of Elizabeth Grist ’22’s Fulbright experience, and she, too, used running as a way to explore, running a half marathon in Mount Cook, New Zealand, during her Fulbright. Grist accepted a Fulbright Research Grant to Australia following graduation, where she collaborated on a pilot study about opioid dependence. She worked with members of the Monash Addiction Research Centre and connected with other researchers in the field at international conferences, allowing her to make meaningful connections across Australia while pursuing research about which she’s passionate.

“I was surprised by how much of a melting pot Australia was for different cultures and backgrounds,” Grist said. “I expected the continent to be isolated, but I made friends from all over the world.”

Grist’s Fulbright experience confirmed her passion for public health and desire to eventually pursue a master’s degree in public health. Her work required her to develop surveys, conduct and transcribe qualitative interviews with participants and prepare documents to support the streamlining of the pilot study. She will ultimately co-author a report for the pilot study, titled “Enhancing Pharmacist-Involvement in Care for Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence.” She will be first author on the report and is grateful that the Fulbright grant has allowed her to pursue meaningful opportunities that advance her academic and career interests.

“My Fulbright experience confirmed that addiction is a disease that does not discriminate and opened my eyes to the complexity of addiction worldwide,” said Grist, who is now a healthcare consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton. “While it could be discouraging to realize how universal addiction is, I’m inspired by the wonderfully talented individuals I was fortunate enough to collaborate with on an international level who are committed to researching and implementing change in addiction medicine.”

Grist-Symposium-2-600x400 Life After FulbrightElizabeth Grist ’22 presenting her research at the Monash Addiction Research Centre’s Annual Symposium.

Kamryn Godsey ’23 also feels that the cultural exchange the Fulbright program facilitates has been eye-opening. Godsey currently serves as an ETA in Taiwan, teaching English to elementary school students in Taitung County. In addition to her teaching duties, she helps her students build cultural, social and emotional awareness. Becoming familiar with Taiwan’s education system has helped her learn what education looks like in an international context, which fits her career plan to go into nonprofit consulting or enter the education management sector.

“I have the privilege of working in schools that serve two indigenous villages, and I’m learning a lot every day as students and families share parts of their culture with me,” Godsey said. “I’m also building an awareness of what indigenous social equity looks like in practice and how much farther it has to go even in the most progressive nations. Like all social justice movements, people must change before policies do for sustainable equality to work.”

When Godsey isn’t in the classroom, she’s exploring her community via scooter or spending lunchtime with her students, which quickly became her favorite part of the school day.

“Most of the time we end up having a fun cultural exchange, where I share my experiences from home with them and they share theirs with me,” Godsey said. “They also help me learn Zhuyin and ardently correct my Mandarin — talk about flipped classroom learning! But they love teaching me, and I love learning from them.”

Kamryn-classroom-600x400 Life After FulbrightKamryn Godsey ’23 leading a class in Taitung County, Taiwan.

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