Wheaton graduates and seniors win Fulbrights

The awards will take 2023 recipients to Argentina, Guatemala, Spain and Germany to teach English

A Wheaton College alumna and three students have been awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) scholarships that will take them into classrooms abroad with local teachers as they also serve as cultural ambassadors for the U.S.

Karen Almaraz ’20, an anthropology major, is headed to Argentina. Erica Drufva ’23, a double major in international relations and Hispanic studies, will teach in Spain. Anna Fairbairn ’22, who double majored in anthropology and Hispanic studies, will teach in Guatemala. Margaret Gould ’23, a first-generation college student triple majoring in European history, secondary education and German studies, is going to Germany.

All three share a desire to learn about people and other cultures that was nourished by their Wheaton education and experiences.

Karen Almaraz ’20, Fulbright ETA in Argentina

 Karen Almaraz ’20, Fulbright ETA in Argentina

Karen Almaraz, a Posse Scholar who majored in anthropology at Wheaton, currently is a fifth grade math teacher at the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y.

She first became interested in teaching in high school when she was asked to tutor a classmate in a trigonometry class. She discovered the joy of spending time with others and supporting their academic goals.

“Teaching has always been prevalent in my life, but my interest in teaching peaked during my time at Wheaton as a teaching assistant for the anthropology intro class, in which I enjoyed facilitating discussions with my lab class,” said Almaraz, who also was inspired by her Posse faculty mentor Professor of Anthropology M. Gabriela Torres.

After graduating from Wheaton, Almaraz volunteered part time as a substitute English teacher at the Coalition for Immigrant Freedom and worked as a Spanish outreach assistant at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in New York City.

She said she is looking forward to taking all that she has learned from her experiences engaging diverse communities and sharing her knowledge abroad as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Argentina.

“As an anthropology major, I am excited to learn about cultures other than mine. With the Fulbright, I will get to experience the exchange of cultures firsthand, which is an honor and a privilege. Additionally, as a Latina educator, I am always finding ways to blend my identity with my classroom work.”

Erica Drufva ’23, Fulbright ETA in Spain

Erica Drufva Class of 2023

Erica Drufva ’23, who is double majoring in international relations and Hispanic studies, is passionate about social justice for immigrants and undocumented people, having grown up with a Swiss grandmother who faced discrimination in the U.S. as an immigrant.

After college, she plans to go into immigration policy analysis or study to be an immigration lawyer to support those in need of help. Strong language skills and cultural understanding will be key to her career goals. The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant opportunity in La Rioja, Spain, will contribute to her success.

“For the past couple years, I have been thinking of living abroad in a Spanish-speaking country after I graduate to improve my Spanish. After studying abroad in Madrid during the fall semester, I knew I wanted to return to Spain to teach English,” Drufva said.

“I applied for the Fulbright in order to get closer to achieving a native-like fluency in Spanish while helping my students improve their English language skills. As a Hispanic studies and international relations double major on the Global Honors track, I have learned the importance of language learning in our globalized world,” she said.

During her Wheaton journey, Drufva has pursued opportunities that provide support to immigrants. She had internships at Latina Republic, a human rights advocacy nonprofit, where she was an immigration journalist and policy analyst intern, and at New Haven Climate Movement, where she focused on bringing climate justice education into the New Haven Public School District.

As a former member of the Latina Republic board, her commitment to helping others has deepened along with her desire to become even more fluent in Spanish to be able to help Spanish-speaking migrants with legal cases, she said.

She credits supportive professors and the access to opportunities at Wheaton for her Fulbright award.

“I would not have been able to win the Fulbright without the amazing professors I’ve had here at Wheaton and the internship opportunities I was able to pursue through Wheaton funding,” she said. “My professors have given me the opportunities to serve as teaching assistants for their classes; Professor Montse Pérez invited me to be a student organizer at a conference in Valencia, Spain, and set me up on a language exchange with a student at the University of Valencia; and Professor Aubrey Westfall invited me to conduct research with her and to be a teaching assistant for her research methods class.

“Additionally, I was invited to serve as a Hispanic Studies Department assistant this semester. And without the help of the Hispanic Studies Department, I definitely would not be as advanced in Spanish as I am today. I am very grateful to all my professors here.”

Anna Fairbairn ’22, Fulbright ETA in Guatemala

Anna FairbairnFairbairn has been drawn to learning other languages since childhood and has continually sought opportunities for cultural connections.

“I grew up in New Hampshire in a small city and smaller corner of the world. There was not a lot of diversity of thought or way of life. Any chance I had to see or learn something new, I grasped for,” she wrote in her Fulbright proposal. “When I was in sixth grade, my family went to Florida for a vacation and there I started hearing Spanish around me and it piqued my interest. Without realizing it, I had found how language creates a whole new dimension of thought and new way to connect with one another. My father knew some Spanish from high school and began teaching it to me as I would eagerly ask to learn new words and phrases. My interest in the language continued as I got older, and my family hosted high school students from Spain. I looked up to them as inspirations to learn a second language and travel to new places.”

Fairbairn said her choosing to double major in Spanish and anthropology at Wheaton opened many doors, including working on a research project in Puerto Rico that taught her the value of experiential learning and led her to spend her final semester at Wheaton studying abroad in Cádiz, Spain. She views the Fulbright as an opportunity to give back in some way for all that she has gained from her experiences.

“The formal and informal teachers who took part in my growth as well as the formal and informal lessons that shaped me all had origins in Guatemala,” Fairbairn said. “I think that the Fulbright ETA in Guatemala will allow me to continue on this journey of engaging with the culture I have been learning about indirectly all along.”

Margaret Gould ’23, Fulbright ETA in Germany

Margaret Gould Class of 2023

Fueled by her interest in history, Margaret Gould ’23 has been fascinated by Germany since childhood. She was drawn to reading books about German thinkers, writers, inventors, events and the Holocaust.

“Growing up in the city of Boston meant that I grew up surrounded by the history of the American Revolution. At a young age, my love for history began, and I got my hands on every nonfiction and historical fiction book that I could when I was a kid,” she wrote in her Fulbright application.

Gould is triple majoring in secondary education, European history and German studies. She also will have a valid Massachusetts teaching license for social studies (grades five through 12) upon graduation. As a Fulbright she will teach English in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany.

“My journey in studying German began when I was in the eighth grade. I decided to take German, despite my parents urging me to learn Spanish as it is more practical to know. I wanted to learn the language of a country that always left me looking for more answers,” she said.

Gould, who chose to come to Wheaton in part because of the college’s German program, got the opportunity to study abroad in Germany at the University of Regensburg and is looking forward to returning to the country.

“I used my five-month study abroad experience to take in as much knowledge as I could. It was a whole new experience that I am so glad I pursued. The Fulbright grant is a great opportunity to continue my journey in learning German and continue my path in education through teaching English, American history and culture,” she said. “I hope to share my knowledge of English and the United States and learn more culturally about the differences between Germany’s regions and states.”

At Wheaton Gould has been actively engaged both in and outside of the classroom. This semester, she has been a student-teacher at Cyril K. Brennan Middle School in Attleboro, Mass., teaching seventh and eighth grade social studies. She also is a Peer Advisor and a member of the History Club and ice hockey team. All of her experiences helped to cultivate skills to confidently pursue studying abroad in Germany during her junior year at Wheaton as well as applying for the Fulbright.

“The Fulbright will help me teach and support all my students in my future career as a middle school or high school history teacher,” Gould said. “I am excited that a first-generation college student like me gets this once in a lifetime opportunity to live, teach, learn and explore in Germany. I never imagined that I would even have the opportunity to be nominated to apply to a program like this let alone be awarded one.”