While studying abroad in China, Nicholas Gareca started an open mic night with some of his friends as a mechanism for cultural understanding between American and Chinese students.
“It was really cool to see the different talents and gifts that people brought from all over the world,” Gareca said.
This summer, he will begin a journey that will allow him to continue to pursue his passion for cross-cultural creative exchange.
Gareca, who graduated from Temple this year with a double-major in Spanish and English and a minor in Chinese, was selected for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taiwan.
“I have been practicing a lot of guitar since I found out the news about my acceptance and I am looking forward to some multi-lingual jamming,” he said.
Fulbright is a scholarship program that provides American recent graduates and graduate students with grants to conduct research or teach abroad.
Including Gareca, three other Temple graduates and students were selected for Fulbright grants this year. Joining Gareca are Eryn Snyder Berger, who earned her master’s in anthropology in 2015 and is currently pursuing a doctorate in anthropology, David Paulson, a doctorate of anthropology candidate and Julie Seidman, a 2015 communication studies graduate.
According to the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, through which the Fulbright program is partially sponsored, research and teaching opportunities are offered in over 160 countries.
In alignment with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ mission, Fulbright aims to increase cultural awareness by fostering relationships between the U.S. and people of other countries.
At Temple, Gareca served as a tutor in the Temple University Writing Center and as president of Hyphen Literary and Arts Magazine, two roles that helped him cultivate the experience and creativity sought after in Fulbright English Teaching Assistants, he said.
Gareca credits the year he spent studying in Xiamen, China with inspiring him to pursue Taiwan as his Fulbright host.
“When I was applying for the Fulbright, I had just come back from a year of studying abroad in China,” Gareca said. “I knew that I wanted to apply to a country where I could continue to develop my Mandarin skills, and seeing that Taiwan was an option for the English Teaching Assistant, I decided I would look more into the program.”
Although teaching takes up the majority of their time abroad, Fulbright English Teaching Assistants have the opportunity to complete additional projects to extend cross-cultural dialogue outside of the classroom.
Gareca wants to create a performance group, similar to the one he started with his classmates in China, with his students in Taiwan.
“I am interested in starting up a cross-cultural creative writing and music collective during my time in Taiwan,” Gareca said. “I have always loved sharing stories and poetry with other people and I think it would be a great way to engage with the local community.”
Gareca’s culturally-minded ideas aided him in the rigorous Fulbright application process. He also had the assistance of Temple’s Fulbright Program adviser, Dr. Barbara Gorka.
Gorka, who began her career at Muhlenberg College teaching Spanish and Latin American literature before beginning her work in education abroad administration, is a resource for prospective Temple Fulbright grantees.
Throughout the process she meets with applicants one-on-one to discuss application components, which among other things include a personal statement, a grant proposal and several letters of reference.
Gorka also holds three workshops per application cycle where applicants can review their material together.
According to Gorka, successful applicants paint a picture of how cultural inclusivity will mark both their time as Fulbright scholars and their future careers.
“Applicants who are able to weave deep cross-cultural exchange into every aspect of their plans are likely to be more competitive,” Gorka said. “Successful applicants are also usually able to show how the Fulbright is a logical and critical next step in their career and academic trajectory.”
Post-Fulbright, Gareca is planning to continue working in bilingual education. Eventually, he would like to obtain a masters in applied linguistics.
Shannon Scabora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.