Two selected for prestigious Fulbright awards

Gabi Nygaard FulbrightA Linfield College senior and alumnus have been selected for upcoming experiences abroad through the Fulbright Program.

Senior Gabrielle Nygaard of Forest Grove will spend next year teaching abroad in South Korea. Keith Welch of Vancouver, Wash., a 2012 graduate, will serve as a teaching assistant in Germany. Both are part of the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program.

Nygaard, who will graduate with a degree in mass communication from Linfield during commencement exercises June 2, will participate in a homestay and teach English at a secondary public school in South Korea. Outside of the classroom, she hopes to work with youth to highlight common ground between the cultures of South Korea and Japan. Through the translation of song lyrics and learning slang, she plans to engage students with language and inspire cultural exploration.

“I want to share that passion with my students,” Nygaard said. “Participating in the Fulbright program is the perfect opportunity to do that and to finally experience the culture I always wondered about.”

Nygaard has been active at Linfield, serving as a conversation partner, tutor and writing assistant for international students. She was a member of the Linfield lacrosse team for three years, served as a writer and editor for the campus newspaper, The Linfield Review, and is also a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society.

Her time in South Korea will be an opportunity to interact with people and participate in a mutual exchange of perspectives.

“I’m most excited about all of the people I’ll meet,” said Nygaard, who is looking forward to the homestay experience. “I hope I can teach my students and help them have fun studying English but I know that I will learn a lot from them, too.”

After her year in South Korea, Nygaard hopes to travel to Japan to teach and is also considering the Peace Corps. Ultimately her plan is to use her love of writing to pursue a career in communications.

Keith Welch FulbrightWelch, who spent a semester studying in Vienna, Austria, as a Linfield student, will now serve as a teaching assistant in a German secondary school, assisting with conversation practice and American culture topics. He also plans to volunteer with a nongovernmental organization or nonprofit to work with immigrant or refugee populations.

As a German studies and international relations double major at Linfield, Welch was interested in languages and cultural differences. His interests grew during the semester he spent in Austria. He also had the opportunity to travel to Germany, which left him wanting to learn more about German society and culture.

In addition to working within and exploring German culture, Welch will also expand his experience working with refugees and immigrants. He spent the past year working with the Vancouver nonprofit, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, a refugee resettlement agency, as part of AmeriCorps.

“I help refugees from Myanmar, Iraq and the former Soviet Union with employment-related issues,” he said. “I teach job-readiness classes and help with resumes and job placement. It has been a spectacular experience.”

Welch’s interest in immigrant populations was piqued while studying in Vienna, where he found the topic just as contentious as in the U.S. He wrote his senior thesis on immigration policy. This opportunity will allow him to work with people firsthand in Germany, and he looks forward to learning more.

Welch hopes to attend graduate school in international relations and pursue a career in the foreign service or as an immigration attorney.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide. Linfield was named a top producer of Fulbright awards for bachelor’s institutions in 2006 and 2010.

The ETA program places U.S. students as English teaching assistants in schools or universities overseas, thus improving foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country. ETAs may also pursue individual research plans or community service activities in addition to their teaching responsibilities.