Fulbright Scholarships Send MU Students Abroad

MU adds to Fulbright success with three more award winners.

Rebecca Taylor, Kasandra Bienhoff and Claire Friedrichsen
Rebecca Taylor, Kasandra Bienhoff and Claire Friedrichsen

Rebecca Taylor spent a semester in Argentina as part of her undergraduate experience at the University of Missouri. Upon returning to the United States, she immediately began looking for a way to return to South America.

“The relationships I formed abroad, and the language skill I continued to develop outside the classroom context, pushed me far beyond all of my established linguistic and social boundaries,” Taylor said. “I knew I had to find way to reconnect with South American culture after graduation.”

She will get that opportunity after being named a recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant, which will send her to Colombia.

Taylor is one of three Mizzou seniors who will spend next year abroad after earning a Fulbright Scholarship from the U.S. State Department. Joining Taylor is Kasandra Bienhoff, who has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant for Bulgaria, and Claire Friedrichsen, who earned a Fulbright Study/Research grant for Italy.

The English Teaching Assistantships (ETA) allow students to teach English at elementary or secondary schools or universities abroad. Teaching assistants, together with the principal teachers, conduct all or part of a class, typically for conversation practice. The assignment may vary, depending on a school’s needs and the assistant’s abilities.

Taylor, a senior from Des Moines, Iowa, is majoring in Spanish at Mizzou.

“The opportunity to teach English through the Fulbright program seemed like an ideal chance to re-establish a meaningful connection with South American culture, while working to address international issues, such as academic injustice and linguistic barriers,” Taylor said.

While in Colombia, Taylor will be able to integrate into the social community through weekly volunteer work with local organizations.

“I’m excited to establish international relationships and see how those will impact me on both an academic and a personal level,” Taylor added. “Conversely, I’m interested to see how I am able to impact the local community where I’ll be working.”

Bienhoff also earned the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant and will travel to Bulgaria. Like Taylor, it will be a return trip abroad for Bienhoff, who was an exchange student with the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program after graduating from high school in Oak Ridge, N.C.

“I decided to look for options that would allow me to learn a third language and gain more experience in another country,” Bienhoff said. “As I did research, I became increasingly interested in Eastern Europe and Germany and Austria’s history in the Balkans.”

Bienhoff is a German studies major, with minors in business, political science and English.

“I am excited to explore Bulgaria,” Bienhoff said. “It is a beautiful country with impressive mountains and a gorgeous coast. I also must admit that I absolutely cannot wait to eat Bulgarian food.”

Friedrichsen is a senior majoring in soil science with a minor in sustainable agriculture. Her grant, the Casten Family Foundation Award, will allow her to study at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy.

“My dream to pursue my interest in the connection between food culture and soil conservation has come true,” said Friedrichsen, who graduated from Hickman High School in Columbia, Mo., in 2008.

With Fulbright research grants, students design their own project and work with professionals in that field within the host country to execute the proposed research.

“I’ve always wanted to attend the University of Gastronomy in Italy,” Friedrichsen said. “When I saw there was a Fulbright that provided tuition and living stipend, I knew that was going to be my goal.”

The Fulbright program, which was created to increase mutual understanding among nations through cultural exchange and education, provides recent graduates with opportunities for personal and professional development as well as international experience through research and study abroad.

“These three students are exceptional and highly deserving of this award,” said Tim Parshall, director of the MU Fellowships Office. “They have an exciting and enlightening year ahead of them as they travel abroad and become familiar with new cultures.”

Students receive assistance from the Fellowships Office, but guidance and support from faculty mentors across campus is vital to continued growth in the number of MU students applying for Fulbrights and other nationally-competitive fellowships.

“The Fulbright Scholarships provide amazing opportunities for students,” Parshall added. “The experiences that Claire, Kassie and Becca will have will complement their undergraduate careers and will be something they carry with them forever.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. 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 155 countries worldwide.