What does your Fulbright experience mean to you?

By Hope Zionts ’26

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers grants to fund research, study, or English teaching in over 140 countries. Grant recipients range from graduating college seniors, recent graduates, graduate students, and young professionals from all disciplines. A Fulbright is an opportunity to expand perspectives through cross-cultural exchange and academic or professional development.

We asked the most recent recipients from Grinnell College who are currently on their journeys, “What does your Fulbright experience mean to you?” Their answers often began with their role in the classroom as English Teaching Assistants (ETAs). The Fulbright experience has meant a deeper connection to their host country through their relationships with people.

For Ella Maloney ’23, currently teaching English in Taiwan, learning from her local co-teachers has been “one of the most rewarding aspects of [her] experience.” Along with people, Ella has deepened her connection with Taiwanese society through culturally rich food exploration.

In addition to her ETA in Colombia, Xonzy Gaddis ’22 spoke of her “capacity-building social project at the Cruz Roja Colombiana (Colombian Red Cross),” where she is reminded “of how through collective leadership the youth of the neighborhoods in San Andrés are the spirits of protecting the environment.”

Also teaching in Colombia is Lexi Mueldener ’23, who is “not only…learning how to teach [but] also learning how to navigate societal and cultural norms that are new to [her].”

Personal development is also on Ella Maloney’s mind as her Fulbright experience “has not only expanded [her] horizons but has also shaped [her] into a more confident, compassionate, and culturally aware individual.” 

As an ETA in Germany, Ella Unal ’23 is preparing for her career after her Fulbright experience, taking all that she has learned about “work-life-balance and community engagement” with her as she “begin[s] [her] career as a high school English teacher in the U.S.”

For these recipients, the Fulbright journey is about the connections and relationships developed in and outside of the classroom. Fostering a deeper understanding of oneself in connection with their surrounding community, culture, and society.  

Xonzy Gaddis ’22 participating in a children’s painting activity at the Third Annual Gran Reciclatón (Grand Recycle-a-thon) at the Cruz Roja Colombiana Seccional San Andrés Island (Colombian Red Cross Regional Office San Andrés).
During the celebrations of the Lunar New Year, Ella Maloney ’23 and friends embarked on a trip to Cambodia, hoping to learn more about the country’s history and culture. Their adventure took an unexpected turn when they crossed paths with a friendly monk who had heard of the Fulbright program. He invited them to spend time at his pagoda and learn more about Buddhism and about the Khmer Rouge genocide. They have stayed friends since!
Ella Unal ’23 in the teacher’s lounge at her school (Alexander-von-Humboldt Gymnasium in Konstanz, Germany).
Lexi Mueldener ’23 at a Thanksgiving cultural activity that she hosted at the university in which students shared what they were grateful for this year (in English), learned about common foods and traditions today, and discussed the problematic aspects of the holiday as well.


Learn more by visiting the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website and the Global Fellowships and Awards overview page. Then schedule an advising meeting with Ann Landstrom, Grinnell College Fulbright Program Advisor (FPA) and Assistant Dean and Director of Global Fellowships and Awards, through Handshake.

By Shannon Desmond
Shannon Desmond Senior Client Support Lead