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Fulbright Future

St. Mary's graduating senior—and current Diablo intern—Whitney Medved discusses being awarded a Fulbright teaching scholarship.

St. Marys College senior Whitney Medved with a resident of Brehy, Slovakia.

At the end of this coming September, I’m off to a tiny town in the heart of Slovakia called Tisovec to teach English to 14–19-year-olds and hang out with old people so I can listen to and write about their stories.

Well, that’s what I’m doing in a nutshell. I was recently awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant for the Slovak Republic. The scholarship is just one version of the many grants available through the Fulbright program, and this one fits me best.

Perhaps the best way to elaborate on what I’m doing and why is to explain myself in a nutshell. I’m graduating from Saint Mary’s College of California this spring as an English Major. I thrive in the classroom atmosphere, especially in smaller settings with plenty of teacher-student attention and interaction. I’ve jokingly been asked by plenty of fellow peers when I plan on teaching so they can send their future kids my way. I usually tell them they have to wait until my anticipated turquoise phase (a time in which I plan on donning chunky, sterling silver encrusted turquoise jewelry), which should start sometime in my early-mid 50’s, after I’ve gotten some experience from outside the classroom under my belt.

In the Fall of ’07 I studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, and fell in love with the people I met—especially the older residents of my late grandpa’s village, Brehy, in Central Slovakia. I actually managed to spend two weeks in the village, saturated by oral histories, cultural richness, and a big ol’ dose of Slovak hospitality. After spending such a brief period of time there, I knew I had to find a way to get back—In part because of my bias and Slovak heritage, but mostly because these people are so fascinating and have lived such physically and emotionally taxing lives yet seem so unacknowledged. Their lives have spanned across profound political, historical, and socio-economic transitions, but there are not too many records of it on a personal basis. These people are not getting any younger … The research and resultant project I compiled there became the seed for my proposed research in my Fulbright application.

So, to make a long story short I’m going to end up back in the classroom and the motherland a lot sooner than I thought. The Fulbright grant is allowing me to merge two (at least…) things that I am passionate about into my own personalized dream-job. Like Brehy, Tisovec has a population of only about 4,000; and that is exactly the small, close-knit community I am after. Small villages such as these have not been affected by time and change as much as larger cities and a local culture is still preserved. Hopefully the town is still chock-full of the token older neighbors who have been through the gamut, and are willing to share their experiences with me so I can share them with you! On top of a substantially longer period of time (the grant is 10 months with the option to apply for an extension, not two weeks) the Fulbright is going to allow me to do research outside of my grandpa’s village, so the possibility of bias will be reduced.

Aside from the teaching and the research/ writing I will be doing, I will also get to take advantage of the numerous opportunities to ski, hike, and recreate outdoors which Tisovec appears to afford. I have never been there, but from the research I've done thus far, and communication with my Slovak contacts, the small community seems very outdoor-oriented. The school boasts a ski club (music to my ears…) and even a small weight room with some rock climbing handholds for training.

So, I’m going to a small village in The Slovak Republic to each English and write about oral histories, but my 10 month grant is going to be so, so much more.