Fulbright Award provides alum with opportunity to further teaching ambitions in Taiwan

The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program provides students and scholars the opportunity to bring their knowledge to other parts of the world and take something back with them. This kind of international culture and linguistic exchange is important to Wayne State University graduate Dani Phillips, as he spends the year in Taiwan as a Fulbright ETA.

Phillips graduated from WSU in December 2021 from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences having focused on Asian studies, global studies and English. He says his familiarity and interest in Taiwan came from his time studying Mandarin Chinese in high school and college, which has finally led him back to Taiwan.

"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when I got into university," says Phillips. "We had the opportunity to study Mandarin in high school, and that was the one thing I knew I wanted to continue studying in college. Through studying Mandarin, I decided that I wanted to teach English.

"It's still a debate for me now if I want to teach now or go into another profession, get some experience, and then teach that subject. I'm definitely leaning toward going straight into teaching, but this is a real good opportunity to line things up for me."

The English teaching assistant programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to assist local English teachers. ETAs help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. They are part of the Student Fulbright Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Phillips says his first experience in a mentor role was coaching youth soccer for four years. "A coach and player relationship is very similar to a teacher and student," he says. "You build very similar relationships and it's a great experience."

Phillips says the Fulbright application process is a rigorous one, but he received help from both faculty and Fulbright alumni. "The application process was very intense," he says. "I focused a lot of my time last summer on it. The feedback I got from people who had previously done it was that you must tell your story, rather than your resume. My first essay was bad; I just kept repeating my resume. So, for my next draft, I painted a picture. I've faced a lot of things in my life, so I really made it about my perseverance. Everyone is dealt bad cards and my dad always said, if you know how to play them, you'll be ok."

In addition to receiving help with his application via faculty and alumni, Phillips says some of the most important support he received in preparing him for his Fulbright came from the International Students Club at Wayne State.

"It's been incredible, they were probably the main part of my life at university," he says. "My social and academic life, I gained so much cultural and lingual knowledge from them, even just learning casual phrases."

It's this knowledge that Phillips says will be valuable to him during this Fulbright program. "It's not only teaching the native English aspect that's important to me. The idea is also to promote cross-cultural exchange of American culture, my own personal culture and what I'm going to see in the rest of the world."

By Jacob Stocking, OIP communications associate

The Office of Fellowships helps students prepare and apply for international awards such as the Fulbright Teaching Award. It is part of the Office of International Programs, which leads Wayne State's global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship and provide resources that support the expansion of the university's global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP or email fellowships@wayne.edu.

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