Sydney (Maureen) Hanes ’21, who will complete her degree at The College of Wooster in global and international studies this spring, has received an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. She will serve as a teaching assistant and cultural ambassador in Kyrgyzstan, a country in Central Asia that borders China. Hanes credits her experiences at Wooster and the support she received as a student for helping to make this award possible for her.
“I’m so grateful to all the professors who have supported me in pursuing this as well as past opportunities. During my time at Wooster, I’ve worked as an English language learning tutor and Russian tutor, and I’ve also had experience working as a language teacher over my summer breaks through various programs,” said Hanes, noting that she’ll be teaching English to university students in Kyrgyzstan through the ETA assistantship. “I’m really interested in international studies, education, and foreign language studies, so I’m confident that this award will provide great experience no matter what I end up doing next.”
While Hanes may be the first Wooster graduate who will teach in Kyrgyzstan, Wooster has a strong record with the Fulbright Program and was recognized as a “top producing” institution by the organization in 2018-19. “Maureen is a superb choice for a Fulbright award to Kyrgyzstan because she has extensive study abroad experience in Asia and in Russia and is extremely skilled in language learning and pedagogy,” said David McConnell, professor of sociology and anthropology and co-chair of Wooster’s Fulbright committee. “Maureen’s coursework and internships while at Wooster have prepared her exceptionally well for a year abroad. She thrives on cultural exchange and building friendships across cultural and national divides.”
Involved with the Department of Russian Studies since her first semester on campus, Hanes spent the fall of her junior year studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. She has also lived in the Russian language suite in Luce Hall. Outside of class, she is a member of Wooster Chorus, and has been involved in Scot Council, Model UN, an outdoors club called WOODS, and WOO 91, the College’s student-run radio station. Her involvement as a student in the community as well as her prior experiences studying abroad in China, Taiwan, and Russia, have prepared Hanes well for this opportunity. “My past experiences abroad taught me so much about adapting to new environments and have really shaped my current interests in foreign language studies and international relations,” she said, noting that the ten months she spent in Taiwan studying Chinese will be the same length as her stay in Kyrgyzstan. “I definitely feel more prepared for my experience as an ETA already knowing what it is like to spend that amount of time in a new place as well as knowing that I’m capable of building relationships and forming a new community for myself abroad.”
Hanes chose to apply for the fellowship in Kyrgyzstan because of a growing interest in the area with her studies in Russian, Chinese, and of Central Asia. “This past summer I had the opportunity to do some research on Sino-Russian security issues in Central Asia as well through an internship I did with the Center for American Progress, which was incredibly interesting and helped to really solidify my interest in the region,” she said. “Having the opportunity to spend almost a full year in Kyrgyzstan is really exciting.”
The Fulbright Program, established in 1946, was created to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and people of other countries. The primary source of funding is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. More than 2,200 U.S. students and 900 college and university faculty are awarded Fulbright grants annually. In addition, some 4,000 Fulbright Foreign Students and Visiting Scholars come to the U.S. each year to study, lecture, conduct research, or teach their native language.