Student Spotlight: Fulbright Scholars at SMCM

This past school year, SMCM has been lucky to receive three students as Teacher Assistants (TA’s) for German, French and Spanish classes brought to us with the Fulbright Scholarship. The scholarship was created to “(a) enhance the foreign language programs at Universities in America by having native speakers (who are English teachers in their home countries) teach their own language and culture, and (b) help the TA’s improve their English skills by having them involved in the community, taking classes related to American culture and live in an American college environment,” Ana Cifuentes Orozco explained. As a Spanish TA from Bogotá, Columbia she explains, “there are plenty of colleges and universities where we can be placed. However, the Fulbright program doesn’t actually let us “choose” a college, but rather, they give us a list of 5 possible colleges that are interested in us, we have to rank them according to our preferences.” At the end of the process, the TA’s are assigned to a college which is best suitable for both the college and TA’s.

Wendy Lejeune is from France, and says her “life at St Mary’s is extremely different from my life back home.” She notes “ The most significant difference is probably the fact that I live on campus here when, at home, I live in an apartment outside of the university during the academic year. Besides, my role here is to be a teaching assistant whereas, in France, I’m a ‘full-time’ student.”

Sascha Kozma grew up in Germany. Kozma remarks on his transition to SMCM, feeling “decelerated here.  It’s not just the tranquil environment but also fewer daily obligations. I find more time here to do sports, for example, and I will probably have a hard time getting used again to cooking my own meals when I am back in Germany again.”  

Feeling stuck on campus often has the trio feeling isolated in theremote area. Cifuentes recalls how her “whole life is now completely different.” Having had access to public transportation, malls, restaurants, shops, parks and many other places close by, here she feels less stressed and more relaxed.

However, the trio will return to their home countries following the end of the school year.

Lejeune states, “I have mixed feelings about my return to France. On the one hand, I can’t wait to see my family and my friends (and the ocean) again, going back to ‘my life’, what’s known and certain. But on the other hand, my life here has been— and still is— full of new experiences, encounters, adventures etc. It is very much more characterized by the unexpected. I wouldn’t be able to say which one I prefer. I will miss aspects of my life in the US when I’ll go back home as much as I currently miss aspects of my life in France.”

Kozma is looking forward to seeing his friends and family again, but “will be sad to say ‘goodbye’ to friends that he has made here. Cifuentes feels a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, Ana states,” I’m excited about going back and seeing my family, friends, and favorite places again.” But on the other hand, she feel a sad because she has developed strong friendships with many people here, as well as adapting to the St. Mary’s Lifestyle. So, it’ll be hard to leave. “I cannot say that I prefer one place over the other. Both home and SMCM are unique and make me feel happy in different ways,” concluded Ana.

Cifuentes, Kozma and Lejeune all agree their favorite parts of St. Mary’s include the river, sports facilities, the food, the beautiful landscapes and surreal sunsets, as well as the open-minded people they have met.

Kozma concluded, “In Bremen we say ‘Moin!’ when we greet each other, regardless of the time of the day. If you recognise me on campus, feel free to surprise me and say ‘Moin!’ and/or ask me questions about German, Germany or Europe.”

Make sure to check out any and all study abroad programs offered through St. Mary’s. Studying abroad is one way to experience first hand living far away from home.

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