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Yes! Go See the World!

Feb 23, 2016
Emi Preston - study abroad

UW Honors encourages students to find themselves at home in the global community, and to take leadership roles in navigating global change. The commitment to expansive learning spans the university: UW was recently ranked a top producer of Fulbright Scholars. We interviewed recent Fulbright scholar and Honors alumna, Emi Preston, about her experience teaching elementary school in Taiwan.

Honors: What did you study at the UW? How did you decide on your major?

Emi: I definitely did not follow the initial four-year plan I created for myself as a freshman! I graduated as a Spanish major/Chinese minor with Interdisciplinary Honors, and I studied abroad twice (Hawaii and Spain).

I started out at UW as a freshman-direct admit to the Foster School of Business, but after completing all the pre-reqs, I decided business was not for me. Looking back, I am thankful I followed my interests and made things happen for myself. Every time a departmental advisor told me, "No, you can’t do that in four years," I went back to Honors to get, "Yes! Go see the world!" And, lo and behold, I graduated on time.

Honors: What else did you do during your time at UW (research, volunteer work, work work, clubs, leadership, etc)?

Emi: Leadership: As a personal trainer and vegan, my sister and I formed "Benching Beauties", a social media platform to promote beauty in strength. We encourage women's weight lifting, raise awareness about eating disorders, and promote holistic wellness.

Clubs: I was an executive of Alpha Kappa Psi, a co-ed, non-residential business fraternity open to all majors. AKPsi gave me the interview and networking skills I have used in every job I have held since joining as a freshman — it also gave me a lifelong group of friends.

Work: I spent one year at the UW Medical Center as a student assistant. I also interned in Beijing one summer and at a gym on Capitol Hill another, and I worked at the IMA front desk.

Honors: How did you find out about the Fulbright, and why did you decide to apply?

Emi: I heard about Fulbright my freshman year somewhere among the dizzying array of options for international travel and study. My junior year, I decided to put all my eggs in one basket and apply for just Fulbright, hoping to secure a post-graduation job. I was also considering intensive language programs, but I chose Fulbright because I wanted to try teaching as a possible career path. The education-focused classes within Honors opened my eyes to the state of teaching in the US and added fuel to the flame.

Honors: Where did you complete your Fulbright?

Emi: Yilan, Taiwan. There were 16 English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) in my county and about 80 in the whole country.

Honors: Walk us through a typical day during your time on the Fulbright? What did you do? Who did you work with? Where did you stay?

Emi: School ran from 8 am to 4 pm everyday, and most days I would stay late to lesson plan. I worked at two public elementary schools teaching grades 1-6. I also worked with three local co-teachers, meaning I was never entirely on my own in front of the class, and we would lesson plan together. It was a challenge to work with so many different textbooks, but it was actually a relief to be able to change locations and co-teachers regularly. I was frequently in touch with the local Fulbright administration as they had bi-weekly seminars for us and sometimes an overarching project.

I lived in a wonderful apartment with another Fulbrighter from UT Austin. On a daily basis, I chatted with my host mom, an English teacher whom I was matched with in the host family program. I did not live with her, but I spent time with her family and grew close to them. After the program ended in June, I traveled around Taiwan with her in July!

Honors: What surprised you about the Fulbright experience?

Emi: The degree of difficulty working with my co-teachers was sometimes surprising. My co-teachers all had different expectations for the amount time that should go into planning one lesson as well as differing levels of interpersonal skill. Different schools also had different expectations for my involvement in extracurricular activities and performance in the classroom. I say this meaning I wish there had been MORE stress placed on me! My schools and co-teachers did not want to burden me, and I had to take it upon myself to initiate projects and get involved.

Honors: What are you doing now that you've finished your Fulbright? What’s next for you?

I am applying to master's programs for speech-language pathology (SLP), i.e. speech therapy! I hope to continue working with children, but I am excited to work with diverse populations in settings outside school. SLP is definitely a career path to consider if you like language, health, and education.

Honors: Anything else you’d like us to know?

Emi: As soon as I was admitted to UW, I created an Excel "four-year plan" that I kept up myself. I didn’t get to study abroad five times like I had initially hoped, but I did go twice! UW has SO many opportunities, and lots of scholarship money goes untouched simply because people don’t apply for it. If you want it, make it happen! And visit Honors if another advisor is discouraging. :) P.S. National Student Exchange is a great way to study "away" if you don’t think you can fit "abroad" into your schedule.