Jason Gilmore and Meagan Wengrove Embark on Year of Service
The Fulbright is one of those fellowships with instant name recognition around the world. Started in 1946, this program is the brainchild of Senator J. William Fulbright who, after living through World Wars I and II, concluded that the way to avoid a third world war was to foster cross-cultural understanding between individuals from different nations through the exchange of students in the fields of culture, education, and science. Every year, the Fulbright Foundation sends approximately 1800 grantees to over 155 countries. Some of those grantees travel abroad to teach their language to locals, through the English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) program for American grantees and through the Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program for grantees coming to the U.S. from foreign countries. Americans going abroad to study, research, or a combination of the two, do so on Student Research grants.
This year, two UNH students joined the elite group of Fulbrighters. Jason Gilmore received his B.A. in English Teaching and his Master’s in Education and is teaching English in Naju, South Korea. Meagan Wengrove holds an M.S. in Water Resources Engineering and is conducting research at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands on the topic of flood risk and damage.
Jason’s teaching assignment has placed him outside of the cultural and economic capitol of Seoul, in a semi-rural area known for its pears and all-natural dyeing techniques. Teaching at an all-boys’ middle school, he notes that the international reputation Korea enjoys as a country with a deep respect for education holds accurate, but that “the fact of the matter is that middle school boys are middle school boys no matter what continent you live on. All of them would rather play soccer or computer games than study for school.” Consequently, he has been refining his teaching chops by “creating a classroom atmosphere and lessons that goad, provoke and trick students into using and learning English.”
The Korean Fulbright program is one of the oldest in existence; in 2010, it celebrated its 60 year anniversary for research grants and this year will commemorate the 20 year anniversary of the ETA program. Jason prepared himself for his experience by self-studying the language for about a year. The training for ETAs also involves a six-week, 100-hour Korean language program. Jason’s efforts with the language were rewarded when he was chosen to give a speech (in Korean) at Korea University back in August. His language skills have also come in handy as he participates in a local fencing club where he gets a chance to practice his conversational Korean and keep up the skills he honed as a member of the UNH fencing team.
Meagan, meanwhile, has been working in Deflt on the highly innovative Sand Engine, a pilot project that will pile over 21.5 million cubic meters of sand along the coast of South Holland to protect the area from flood risk and damage. Her work is part of a monitoring campaign that is presently being undertaken to gain insight into the development of the altered coastal system. Working with the Civil Engineering department at Delft University of Technology, Meagan will compare the hydrodynamic data to the remotely sensed data by making a series of movies, with the eventual objective of characterizing the longshore currents and derive wavenumbers within the vicinity of the Sand Engine. She shares an office with three Dutchmen and was recently invited to an all-day outing with the Civil Engineering department that included seeing one of the largest pumping stations in the Netherlands near the North Sea and the Batavia, a replica of a 18th century Dutch merchant ship.
Meagan and Jason’s success in the competition demonstrates that UNH students are well-qualified to win these prestigious scholarships, though both emphasize that there is a certain type of student that fits the Fulbright profile. Jason describes this person as someone who can passionately give of him or herself. As he puts it, “your year is very much a year of service.” Meagan emphasizes the need to be ready to learn and be flexible, adding that ideal Fulbrighters are “curious about other cultures and ready for locals to be curious about your own.”
Students must hold a bachelor’s degree in order to receive a Fulbright; most begin the application process in the spring of their junior year. Alumni, Masters, and Ph.D students are also eligible to apply and the UNH Fellowships Office coordinates the application process for all of these groups. Interested parties students and alumni can contact the office’s director, Jeanne Sokolowski, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-862-0733 to discuss the possibilities.