Come September, senior Nora Dougherty will be far away from the normalcy of move-in day, 8:00 a.m. classes and club meetings during common hour. While this is a luxury most other graduating seniors will be experiencing, Dougherty's case is slightly different- on April 18, the international studies major learned that she had received an English Teaching Assistant grant from the Fulbright U.S. Scholar program. This is the first time a Ramapo College student has received the prestigious scholarship.
Dougherty will head to Spain in the fall, where she will spend the next nine months in Cantabria assisting high school students with their English skills. In an interview with the Ramapo News, Dougherty shared her reaction to the news of her acceptance, and how her various mentors at Ramapo were instrumental to her achievement.
Ramapo News: How did you hear about the Fulbright Scholarship?
Nora Dougherty: The former graduate assistant in the Community Service Center, Rachel LaForgia, got the same Fulbright in Madrid back when she graduated college. So it was always in the back of my mind.
RN: What was the application process like?
ND: Actually, I wasn't even going to apply because it was so daunting. They say you typically need like six weeks to prepare all the requirements, so I didn't think I was going to finish it. But Dr. Aaron Lorenz [assistant professor and director of Scholarships and Fellowships] gave me the encouragement to apply. It was so helpful to have someone there who knew how it worked, whose job it is to answer all the difficult questions.
RN: Who were your mentors and inspirations throughout the lengthy process?
ND: All of my professors have always been awesome with encouraging us students to go abroad, take a year to travel. Shout out to Dr. Peterson, who's retiring. I could have never done it without him.
RN: Why Spain?
ND: My high school Spanish teacher was from Sevilla so as I was learning the language, I was learning about Spain, and that just carried through college. I studied in Sevilla in spring 2010 and that convinced me that after I graduated, I wanted to go back and take a year off before graduate school.
RN: What are you most nervous about?
ND: I'm glad that I studied abroad before, so I won't have to deal with the immediate shock of being in a foreign country surrounded by a language other than English, but I will be completely on my own. During my semester there, I had a host mom that cooked my meals, made my bed…it's going to be weird not going back as a student. The environment is also going to take some adjustment, since the north [where Cantabria is located] is very different from what I experienced in the south, in terms of the climate and culture. This will be a new transition, almost an all-new Spain.
RN: What advice do you have for students that are looking to follow a similar path as you?
ND: I think most of us doubt that we can do something like this. But if you don't think you can get it, apply for it anyway because you never know. I never thought in a million years that I would get this. I thought it was just kids from Yale who apply and get it. Also, Studying what you love is most important because I think that everything works out if you like what you're doing.