Jens Olsen knew he wanted to return to Vietnam. Heidi Le wasn’t sure if she wanted to apply. Bethany Hellerich decided that one more experience before graduate school was a good idea.
Regardless of motivation, the three are the latest from Augsburg to be selected for the Fulbright Scholarship program. Olsen and Le, who will graduate next month, will spend the 2010-11 academic year teaching English in Vietnam. Hellerich, a 2009 Augsburg graduate, will teach English in Indonesia.
While the Fulbright program is very competitive, Augsburg students have had great success in recent years. Seven Auggies have now been awarded Fulbrights over the past three years. The program, which is run by the Institute of International Education, has sent students and faculty members across the world to study, teach, or conduct research for more than 60 years.
Here’s a look at Augsburg’s latest winners.
Jens Olsen ’10
Olsen, a senior majoring in biology, had the most exposure to the Fulbright program before deciding to apply. His sister Erin, also an Augsburg graduate, received a Fulbright scholarship to teach in Venezuela during the 2008-09 academic year.
“She had a really good experience,” Olsen said.
After studying abroad in Vietnam in the spring of 2009, Olsen knew that was where he would apply. He had a very good experience studying in the southern part of the country and wanted to go back.
In addition to teaching English, Fulbright winners are expected to spend 20 hours a week working on another project. During his study abroad semester, Olsen worked with a community health program on Dengue Fever prevention. He’d like to continue that work when he travels to Vietnam late this summer.
For a while, Olsen—who is going to apply for medical school—wasn’t sure that he was selected. Le had received notification of her selection several days before he found out. Turns out that an email informing him of his selection had been caught in Augsburg’s spam filter.
“I got really nervous,” said Olsen, who is dating Le. “It was an emotional roller coaster.”
Heidi Le ’10
Le was prepared if she hadn’t been selected as a Fulbright winner. The biology and chemistry double major had already been accepted into pharmacy school at both the University of Minnesota and Campbell University in North Carolina.
When she received a letter informing her that she had been selected, she screamed.
“I was pretty excited,” Le said. “But I got nervous because I wanted (Olsen) to go too.”
The year in Vietnam will allow Le to learn more about her heritage. While Le was born in the United States and grew up in Bloomington, her parents immigrated from Vietnam when they were in their early 20s.
Le spoke Vietnamese at home as a young child, but by the time she became of school age, she said she drifted away from the language and the culture. In recent years, she has become more interested in her heritage.
“So I’m very excited to go and give kids opportunities to learn,” Le said.
Even though her parents arrived in the United States from Vietnam, Le needs to work on her Vietnamese before the program starts. She can understand the language when she hears it, but has a more difficult time reading or writing the language.
Because of her interest in pharmacy, Le would like find an opportunity related to that. For now she has deferred her admission to pharmacy school for a year.
Bethany Hellerich ’09
After graduating last spring with a communication degree, Hellerich is spending this year working with Lutheran Volunteer Corps as a volunteer and interfaith coordinator for Habitat for Humanity in San Francisco.
Last fall, Hellerich exchanged emails with Dixie Shafer in Augsburg’s office of Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity to discuss what she wanted to do after this academic year ends. Graduate school in public health is in her plans, but she would like a little more experience before returning to the classroom.
“This seems like a great opportunity for international work,” Hellerich said. “I’m very excited. Nervous, but excited.”
Hellerich wasn’t sure if she had a chance to be selected. She had seen Brian Krohn become a Rhodes Scholar during her time at Augsburg and several others receive Fulbright scholarships.
“Everyone who received something like that is really, really much cooler,” she said. “I’m just fortunate Dixie Shafer exists and magical things happen when she works with you on your application. She’s very helpful with giving good and very detailed feedback.”
But last week, Hellerich got up in the morning and there was a notification email just waiting to be read on her iPhone.
“I studied abroad in East Africa and I loved it,” she said. “I’m one of those people who are conflicted between going somewhere I loved and going somewhere I’ve never been before. I’ve never been to that part of the world. It will be a challenge for me, but I’m looking forward to it.”