Here in the Honors Office, we truly believe that we have the most incredible alumni. And for this reason, we are especially excited to share the recent accomplishment of Maureen Koets, 2016 graduate of the Honors Program. Koets, who graduated with a history major, German and business minors, and Spanish and French certificates, was extremely involved during her time here at SNC. Post-graduation, this work ethic and drive has only grown, and she has recently been awarded a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship grant. This highly competitive and prestigious award will pay all expenses as Koets spends September 2017 - July 2018 in Bavaria. While abroad, she will be a TA for an English or American Studies program at either a high school or university, and will attend Fulbright Conferences next Spring in Berlin. While still learning all the details and responsibilities that come with her grant, Koets has shared with us a bit about her thoughts and emotions regarding this honor:
I feel relief more than anything. Since studying in Germany 2 years ago, I've known that Germany is where I need to live, study, and try to build my future. Visiting again last summer simply confirmed that it's "home" - I've never been so sure of something inexplicable. There's an intuitive urge to run down this unknown path to see what is on the horizon - it has just been a matter of finding my way back to the path.
I've had Fulbrights in the back of my mind since high school. I tried to be intentional throughout college to make myself a strong candidate. Even then, I was unsure of actually applying. The process took one year. The wait has been long, dark, and I will say, torturous. Receiving the acceptance letter felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could finally see my path clearly. l could finally breathe again - a breath of fresh air, brightness, hope. It is immensely gratifying that my efforts, gambles, and sacrifices paid off.
Now I'm overwhelmed with the weight of paperwork and an even bigger sense of responsibility. It is an honor to have been chosen as an English/American Studies Teacher - to serve as an ambassador for our country is especially important (and difficult) nowadays. I'm a bit scared, but I know I'm prepared for the challenge.
I am excited, and a little daunted too, about the possibilities that this grant opens up. I know already that this will be life-changing. It will be interesting to see the state of things, and the state of myself, on the other end of this experience. Living abroad triggers such a metamorphosis: a terrifyingly beautiful disintegration of a person and their way of thinking, and a rebirth of someone new. I know I've changed a lot just within the last two years, studying for a time in Austria, Germany, and France.
Finally, I am so grateful to my community at SNC. Without the help of Dr. Mann and Marcie Paul, especially, I would not have won or even applied for this grant. I thank them for being, and continuing to be, a bulwark of support.
For what it is worth, I have a few words of wisdom and encouragement for fellow Honors Students or anyone thinking of doing something uncommonly ambitious:
Study abroad. It may be the most challenging, interesting, and transformative experience of your young adulthood. Find other ways to travel and get out of your comfort zone too - volunteer work, signing up for a class you thought you'd never take, learning another language just to see where it leads, etc. Remember that struggles and setbacks are not signs of failure - they are learning opportunities.
Apply for scholarships. Money is out there, you just need to ask for it. If your application is rejected, you're only out a few hours or days of writing. If you win, it could be the easiest hundreds or thousands of dollars you'll earn. Honors Societies are a good place to start the scholarship search. SNC offers several to grads, too. The same principle applies to the job search: fire off job applications, even if you don't get hired for the job you wanted, perhaps your information will be kept on file and you'll be contacted for a different job in the future. Just get yourself out there and be confident.
Tell others about your goals. If you aren't sure what you dream of doing, who do you dream of being? In college, you're surrounded by supportive profs and peers. But share your aspirations with strangers too. "Nothing is free except a little bit of bad advice," but you never know who will have the knowledge or connections to help get you closer to where you want to be.
Lend a hand to others. As you share your success, share in the successes of others. If you are graced with opportunities, generosity, or luck, pay it back by paying it forward. Live "communio."
Likewise, if anyone plans on being in Europe within the next year, feel free to reach out! I'd love to meet up with (maybe even host, depending on my housing situation) other SNC people. In the very least, I have travel recommendations for most of Europe's major cities.
- Liebe Grüßen. Maureen