Cassandra Romanowski
Cassandra Romanowski
Image: Penn State

Humanities student offered Fulbright to teach English abroad

Penn State Harrisburg senior interdisciplinary humanities major Cassandra Romanowski, of Marysville, has been offered a Fulbright grant to teach English in Malaysia next year. Of the program’s hundreds of applicants from across the country, she was one of only 75 who made the cut – a first-time achievement for a student at the college.

Founded in 1946, Fulbright programs are the nation’s flagship international educational exchange programs, sponsored by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The programs, which operate in more than 155 countries, offer grants to individuals for study, instruction, and research aimed at increasing mutual understanding across the globe.

“They call it ‘the academic Peace Corps’ …and the Penn State Harrisburg honors program is what really drove me to apply,” Romanowski said about her achievement.

The application process was “pretty lengthy,” including a statement of purpose, a research grant proposal, and letters of recommendation, but honors program faculty advisor Dr. Oranee Tawatnuntachai encouraged her to take on the challenge, she said.

“One of the objectives that guide our honors programs is to challenge students to become engaged in both scholarly and extracurricular activities. Many times, students do not realize their potential, but when they are shown opportunities, they produce outcomes that sometimes surprise even themselves, said Tawatnuntachai. “Cassandra is a good example. We showed her an opportunity to explore, and she took it seriously.”

And the effort paid off.  In January 2014, Romanowski plans to set off for Malaysia, where she anticipates spending nearly a year teaching English to school-aged children.

During the first month of the mission, Fulbright recipients will go through an orientation process in the nation’s capital – in Romanowski's case, Kuala Lampur – to learn techniques for teaching English as a second language. Afterward, they will each be assigned a post in one of the country's rural states, where they will spend the next 10 months as teaching assistants in local schools helping children learn English.  

“We are there to make [learning English] fun. We will be supplementing the students’ classroom time with activities that get them up and learning English in a fun manner – summer camp type activities.”  Romanowski said of her plans.

“The benefits of cross-cultural interaction are more than reciprocal, as I plan to learn just as much, if not more, from spending time as a guest in Malaysia,” Romanowski said. “I want to invite students to identify and share not only what is different about our cultures, but also how alike we really are. I believe this promotion of intercultural friendship, despite differences, is really what the mission of the Fulbright program is about.”