Nataja Flood ’16 didn’t expect to study abroad in college, thinking travel would be too expensive. Then, her first year at Wheaton, she won a Robert College Fellowship to teach high school students in Istanbul, Turkey.
“I knew I couldn’t stop there,” she said. “It was definitely the catalyst for my exploration.”
After her summer at Robert College, Flood went on to study twice in South Africa and also spent a semester at the University of Sussex in England. Those experiences helped the English major form an interest in international education and encouraged her to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, which she recently won.
“I wanted to spend some time teaching abroad, and I knew a Fulbright would provide me with the kind of experience that would prepare me for the work that I ultimately want to do,” she said.
A Posse Scholar, originally from Harlem, New York, Flood said the culture and history of Greece appealed to her when she was considered Fulbright destinations.
“Greece has a lot of similarities to my hometown. Culturally, the family structures and practices mirror mine. Despite being on different sides of the world, I feel in Greece I can feel at home,” she said.
She also is eager for an introduction to the European education system.
“I wanted a place that I could learn, live and explore,” she said.
In addition to teaching in Greece, the soon-to-be-graduate hopes to facilitate poetry and theater workshops for her students and others in the surrounding communities. One of her most popular activities at Robert College was a class in which she taught students about the history of hip hop and how to write raps—which helped them develop their English language skills.
“I identify myself as an educating artist, as I love art and find it to be an essential part of education,” said Flood, who is both a writer and painter. “I want to teach and provide spaces for people to use their art to understand the world and themselves.”
At Wheaton, Flood serves as president of the iSPEAK poetry club and has performed spoken word poetry at several events, both on and off campus. She also serves as president of Class Council and of Renaissance House, a student-organized theme residence hall, and has represented her class in the Student Government Association. She also has worked for two years as a student teacher at the Elisabeth W. Amen Nursery School.
In February, Flood was recognized for her leadership—and her efforts to promote diversity and inclusion on campus—with Wheaton’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Student Legacy Award, presented at the inaugural MLK Legacy Celebration.
In her Fulbright essay, Flood wrote about how walking into a classroom always makes her smile because of the sheer amount of potential in the room.
“Out of any classroom of students, there is always someone who is bound to change the world, whether in a large or small way,” she wrote. “As an educator, I know my purpose is to have an impact on young lives. I want to create and facilitate a space where students’ potential can be transformed into a powerful tool for personal and academic growth.”
Flood said she is particularly interested in teaching children of color from low-income neighborhoods—to be a role model and to show them that learning can be fun.
“I want to teach because the only way to truly impact the community is to provide them with the necessary knowledge to propel upward mobility,” she said.