Local grad wins Fulbright grant
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 13:32

Lauren McCusker will spend year in South Korea thanks to prestigious international program

by Nicole Rodman

How do you prepare to move to the other side of the planet?
    For Sparrows Point resident Lauren McCusker, this question is more than hypothetical as she prepares to begin a year-long trip to South Korea next month.
    McCusker’s trip is made possible by her recently-awarded English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Fulbright Scholarship.
    Established by Congress in 1946, the Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program is named after the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, longtime chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who sponsored the legislation creating the program in the hope of fostering cultural exchange and international understanding.
    Funded by the U.S. Congress, with assistance from a number of foreign governments, the program  operates in 155 countries and awards approximately 8,000 grants each year to students and scholars around the world.
    According to the program’s website, 2,800 U.S. students and scholars receive scholarships to teach and study abroad each year. Another 4,900 foreign students and scholars  come to the U.S. under the Fulbright program each year.
    The highly prestigious program has produced over 40 Nobel Prize winners and nearly 80 Pulitzer Prize winners.
    McCusker began her application for the Fulbright Program while still a student at Notre Dame of Maryland University (formerly the College of Notre Dame) in Baltimore.
    McCusker recently received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, graduating from the school last month.
    A resident of Sparrows Point since moving to the area in 2006, McCusker graduated from Sparrows Point High School in 2008.
    She studied at the Community College of Baltimore County for two years before transferring to Notre Dame of Maryland University in 2010.
    Since 2006, McCusker’s family has owned and operated Meehan’s Marina on School House Lane in Sparrows Point. 
    It was last summer, just before her final year at Notre Dame, when McCusker decided to apply for the Fulbright Program.
    “The process for applying for the Fulbright is very long and at times was overwhelming,” McCusker told The Eagle last week.
    Working with Notre Dame professor Leonor Blum, McCusker submitted her application last October.
    “The two essays are, by far, the most important part of the application and they take the longest to write,” McCusker explained, adding, “I can’t tell you how many times I edited and rewrote my essays.”
    After sending off the application last fall, McCusker waited five long months.
    Finally, a congratulatory e-mail McCusker received on March 27 confirmed that she had been selected for the program.
    She chose South Korea as her destination. While there, she will teach English language classes.
    “I chose South Korea because I felt I had the best chance of being accepted to this particular program,” McCusker noted, explaining, “the program was accepting 80 applicants and there was not a language requirement, as there is in many Spanish speaking countries.”
    Though this will be her first time teaching in South Korea, McCusker is no stranger to teaching abroad.
    Last fall, McCusker spent seven weeks teaching in Hungary and Austria as part of an internship arranged by her college.
    McCusker hopes that all of her international teaching experience will prepare her to take a job as a teacher in a Baltimore-area classroom when she returns next year.
    In addition, McCusker hopes to begin work on her master’s degree when she returns home from South Korea.
    For now, however, she is content to fill her days with packing and preparation for the journey to come.
    She will document
her year-long adventure on her blog at http://lmccuskertravel.blogspot.com.
    “I have traveled a lot in the past, and I want to take every opportunity available to expose myself to different cultures and teaching styles,” McCusker noted last week, concluding “Ultimately, I know it will make me a better teacher.”