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Graduate Student Liesl Driver Awarded Fulbright To Study in Brazil

July 3, 2013

Liesl Driver, a graduate student in the Global & International Education (GIE) program, has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA). She’ll be traveling to Brazil next year to serve as a teaching assistant at a local university and conduct research in the community.

Driver says that the GIE program fueled her desire to travel and live abroad. In researching options, she came across the Fulbright ETA program; it sounded like the perfect fit. The program is designed for individuals who have less than two years of previous teaching experience and are looking to share their culture and language abroad. Participants in the program teach for 20-25 hours per week, and use the rest of their time to conduct research in the local community.

In mid-June, she was awarded the Fulbright ETA program in Brazil. While all details are not yet finalized, Driver does know that she will be assigned to a location somewhere in Brazil.

She departs in March 2014 for a nine-month stay. She’ll work as a language assistant in a local university, and her research will focus on assisting local, homegrown businesses and artisans with English language skills. As an added perk, she’ll be there for the 2014 World Cup, and will get to experience all that excitement and energy.

“I feel that with the boom of tourists going to Brazil [for the World Cup], my research will serve as a valuable asset and ensure that local communities can benefit,” Driver says.

Driver’s path to the Fulbright weaved through Mexico and Spain, and is rooted in indigenous languages. She has always had a passion for languages and cultures. While attending Bloomsburg University, she studied abroad in Spain for five weeks, and in Mexico for six months. In Mexico, she learned the basics of Nahuatl, an indigenous language. Her lessons in Nahuatl piqued her interest in studying indigenous cultures and languages.

After graduating from Bloomsburg in 2010 with a double major in Anthropology and Spanish and a double minor in Latin American Studies and Ethnic Studies in the U.S., Driver obtained a Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship through San Diego State University to study the indigenous language Zapotec. For six weeks, she moved to Mexico to live and study in an indigenous community in Juchitan, Oaxaca. Zapotec is only spoken in certain areas of Mexico, and there are various dialects within the language. But for Driver, it illustrated the influence that language has on culture.

After finishing her studies in Juchitan, Driver moved to Michoacan, Mexico, where she taught English for six months to second-graders at a private bilingual school in a small town. After that, she moved to West Chester, Pa., and started looking at graduate programs.

“I was not positive about what I wanted to study until I found the GIE program at Drexel,” Driver says. “It sounded like the perfect way to combine my passion for languages, culture, education and travel.”

She’s now in her fifth quarter of the GIE program. She says that her experiences with indigenous cultures in Mexico have really shaped her research interests. Through the Fulbright ETA in Brazil, she’ll be able to further explore those interests while contributing to the local community.

“I’m really looking forward to going to Brazil and learning another language,” Driver says. “I’m excited for the challenge.”