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Spending time in a foreign country will be a step in the right direction for University of Cincinnati alum Amanda Bright, who wants to learn about other cultures and teach children who speak another language.
As a recent UC education grad, Bright, CECH ’18, has spent the last year in Chicago teaching high school math. But now after receiving a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Bright will spend the next academic year in Athens, Greece, as an English teaching assistant and SAT math prep tutor to English-speaking students who want to pursue higher education in the U.S.
Annual Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.
In addition to Bright, UC received five total Fulbright Student Scholarships for 2019-20 through UC's Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. Additional recipients include Garrett Ainsworth, who will teach English in Taiwan; Brian Nabors, CCM doctoral student who will perform musical composition research in Sydney, Australia; Andrea Ori, who will work in biophysics at the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris; and Chloe Elleman, who received a UK summer institute grant. The students’ pursuit of academic excellence while using their leadership skills to make an impact in the world represent tenets of UC’s strategic direction called Next Lives Here.
“My admiration of Greece and its culture does not end in history books,” says Bright. “Working with the Hellenic American Educational Foundation (HAEF) in Athens for the next academic year seems more like a surreal twist of fate.”
As part of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship program this year, 13 U.S. scholars are going to Athens and will all live together in a residential complex. In addition to teaching English at HAEF during the day, Bright says she will also coach a debate team as well as a comedy and drama club after-school program, all in English.
"HAEF’s dedication to strengthening ties between the foundation and the United States while simultaneously delivering a cross-cultural educational experience to its students is not only admirable but groundbreaking,” Bright adds. “My passion has always been to immerse myself in different cultures so that I can truly understand empathy.
“And this opportunity will provide a new global experience as I travel across the ocean for the first time.”
Bright was exposed to a small variety of cultures as a college student, but then many drastically different cultures as a teacher in Chicago. In South Chicago she works with more than 150 students every single day — many who speak a different language than she does in their day-to-day lives. Planting even a small seed bares fruit, she says, so she uses her resources to grow connections with students whose lives look drastically different than her own.
While in Athens, Bright plans to immerse herself in the Greek culture, learn the Greek language at a local university and travel around Europe during her winter and spring breaks.
“Mariah Cain, a UC Fulbright scholar from 2018-19 has spent the past year in Greece in the same program, so as a liaison, we plan to communicate with each other before my journey begins,” she adds.
Bright’s interest in Greek history took root in high school where she says her studies in Greek literature and mythology made the culture come to life.
“As I read ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer, Greece seemed like a beautiful, magical, fictional place, and my fascination for Greek mythology grew like wildfire,” she says. “I was obsessed with these dark, fantastical, fairy-tale stories and intrigued that a country had such beautiful tales as part of its history.
“They incorporate the old with the new so well there so the Fulbright trip feels like a great fit for learning about another culture.”
As a UC undergrad, Bright was an accomplished Cincinnatus and College of Education scholar, a CECH ambassador and a member of the Pi Beta Phi fraternity for women.
In her spare time she taught adult literacy classes, tutored local children through UC's Bearcat Buddies program and was a chess instructor to Cincinnati Public School third through fifth graders as part of the Chris Collinsworth ProScan Fund.
“Chess is good for your math, logic and reasoning skills and it’s also competitive,” says Bright. “So I taught chess to inner-city students to help enhance their math skills, and I made money while doing it.”
That experience helped develop her passion for teaching and enhanced her desire to work with kids in the inner city where she said, “This is what I need to do, this is where I need to be, which is why I ended up taking the teaching job that I did in Chicago.”
“My school in Chicago is about 98% Hispanic students, so that sparked my interest in traveling,” says Bright. “I have never worked with students who spoke a different language. Here they mostly speak Spanish, but I don’t speak Spanish so they speak English to me.
“While it was a bit overwhelming at first I quickly enjoyed being ‘an outsider’ as they call me. I eventually felt comfortable learning to pick up so many different customs.”
As a Fulbright fellow in Greece, Bright says she looks forward to the opportunity to interact with students in the classroom and through its forensics club. Students learn best when they feel a genuine connection with their teacher, she says, so developing a mentorship with her students will hopefully lead to success in and outside the classroom.
“The Hellenic American Educational Foundation has continued to provide cross-cultural experiences to students, while simultaneously building a strong community,” says Bright. “I look forward to being surrounded by people passionate about changing this world for the better through education.
“It is our role as educators to not only teach students proper grammar but to teach them how to be successful, contributing members of society, and this task starts with us.”
As Bright makes plans to start a chess program with the students in Greece, she hopes to teach college students to help high school students and high school students to help elementary school students learn to love the logic and competitive skills within the game.
“This program would not only teach the students a new skill but would develop a sense of mentorship between different age groups — a positive legacy I hope to leave in Athens, as well as bring back to my students at home,” she says.
Become a global Bearcat
Learn how you can apply to UC and explore the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards as a resource for outstanding students who seek to compete for world-renowned and highly competitive scholarships and fellowships. See more news related to UC's Next Lives Here strategic direction.