When senior Colleen Prince first received the email telling her that she had won a Fulbright Scholarship, she didn’t think it was real.
“I was literally dancing on stage and took a break to check my phone, which I shouldn’t do,” Prince said. “I saw the Fulbright email with congratulations, and I thought to myself, ‘This has to be an April Fool’s joke.’ I was so nervous.”
Prince may have received her email of congratulations on April Fool’s Day, but there was nothing fake about it. She is a Fulbright Scholarship recipient through the English Teaching Assistant program and the sixth Hillsdale College student to win a Fulbright Scholarship in the last five years.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards graduating U.S. students, both undergraduate and graduate, with the opportunity to further their education in foreign countries either through individually designed research/study projects or through the English Teaching Assistant Program. The Fulbright provides grants in 144 different countries. Once Prince decided to apply, she had about three weeks to complete the extensive application that includes a grant purpose, personal statement, letters of recommendation, proof of foreign language abilities, and interviews with both the campus Fulbright board and the host country. Director of Career Services Ken Koopman spent what he estimated to be about 10 hours with Prince working on her application.
“Sometimes when people are preparing for something like this, there’s so much work and so many things going on, they want to write the essay and give it one look for grammar,” Koopman said. “Colleen spent hours and hours doing this and doing it the right way. I looked at it. She had other people look at it. For any students that are interested in this kind of award in the future, that’s the dedication that it takes.”
One of the most time-consuming aspects of the application was the grant purpose. Prince’s grant purpose is twofold. The first is to train at a Ukrainian dance school. The second is to work with a holistic health clinic that is seeking to implement a new kind of dance therapy that could be used to help soldiers suffering from PTSD. Prince will pursue her grant purpose while working as a teaching assistant to a professor at a Ukrainian university. Prince chose Ukraine because of her own Ukrainian heritage and her experiences within the culture. She has been dancing semi-professionally with a Ukrainian folk dance troupe since 2008.
“It would be such an honor to be able to train at a Ukrainian dance school in Ukraine. That is just the culmination of everything I’ve wanted as an artist,” she said. “Being able to, at the same time, be an ambassador through teaching a language that is going to be so hopefully and necessary to these students there, for their success — that combines the skill sets and what I desire to do with my life, which is all I could really ask for.”
Hillsdale’s Fulbright Program Adviser, Professor of German Fred Yaniga, said he is proud of Prince and the hard work she put into applying for the program.
“I’m happy that she did it,” Yaniga said. “She had a project that is near and dear to her heart, to her background. She’s going to come back a changed person with huge opportunities because, when her application for a job, internship, or postgraduate study position falls on someone’s desk, the first thing they see will be ‘Fulbright winner.’ And her application will flow to the top.”
The program runs September 2019 through May 2020. Prince said she looks forward to her time in the country and wants to thank all those who helped her through the process.
“It’s great to know that I now have a story that I can share with future undergrads,” Prince said. “It’s a story about how you should take every single opportunity you are presented with, because it could turn out really great and you have absolutely nothing to lose by trying.”