Student Post: A Fulbright Year in Germany

I was studying in the Mary Idema Pew library just three weeks away from graduating, when I received an e-mail from the Institute of International Education with the subject line “Fulbright U.S. Student Program Application Notification;” an e-mail I had awaited for more than six months.

Reading the first sentence and its congratulations, I gasped loudly and threw a hand over my mouth in disbelief. Those studying around me probably wondered, and rightfully so, what kind of thing could possibly elicit so much joy in the university library with the exam period looming. Let me tell you what kind of thing that is…

A Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Germany entails one’s placement at a German school to teach part time English language, American history, culture and politics, and the general fostering of cross-cultural dialogue both in the school and community. The overarching program goal is to promote mutual understanding between countries. I was also granted a spot in the Fulbright ETA subgroup called the Diversity Program, in which one’s school placement is quite diverse with many students having migrant or refugee backgrounds.

I teach in Fürth, Bavaria at Hardenberg-Gynamsium, an institution for grades 5-12, as well as at the diverse Grundschule Frauenstraße, a school for grades K-4. My colleagues are wonderful and my students so eager and curious. For example, if I had 1€ (Euro) for every time I’ve been asked how I feel about Donald Trump, gun laws, and football, cheerleaders, or prom, I would be rich! Controversial questions, the exchange of perspectives, and breaking down stereotypes are all an exciting part of the job.

There is no denying the challenge of being plopped in a new city, in a foreign country, to live in a new language/culture, with a new job, new apartment, new roommate, and new friends. One important lesson that teaches you, if you let it, is how to really establish yourself in a new place, make connections, and build a new life.

In my quest to do just that, I’ve enrolled in the university here (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität) where I study Arabic and Swahili. I’ve also joined an organization (Ehrenamtlisch Flüchtlingsbetreuung in Erlangen) that offers tutoring to refugee students who have been resettled in Germany; I teach English to two boys from Damascus, Syria while they act as Arabic tutors for me. I also play basketball for a club team in Nürnberg and coach a team of fifth and sixth grade girls through a nationwide effort called Integration Durch Sport that seeks to help migrant and refugee students better integrate into German schools. Practice is always a hilarious mix of charades and translations given the girls’ variety of native languages.


Sarah Cullip graduated in 2017 with a degree in English & German Secondary Education after her tenure as a member of the Cross Country, Track & Field, and Women’s Basketball teams, a representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a German Club member, and a Cook Leadership Academy Fellow. Sarah then received a Fulbright grant to Germany, where she currently works as an English Teaching Assistant, studies Arabic and Swahili, tutors refugees, and plays and coaches basketball. Sarah will spend the summer interning at a school in Kenya with hopes to teach another year in Germany before pursuing a Master’s degree in International Comparative Education. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, travelling and reading.


Student Post: Anyone can Study Abroad

This past summer I was able to study abroad in France for 9 weeks with the help of the Gilman Scholarship. My program was a non-GVSU program located in the south of France in a small town called Pau. I was able to study French language and culture there, while living with a host family and taking classes in both French and English. It was my first time traveling internationally, and was my most memorable summer to date.

I think my Junior Seminar helped prepare me a little for my travels a little, since I took European Civilizations, giving me a broad background in European history and culture. I even got to see some of the places we discussed in that class in real life. I met students from all over the world, was able to study at a French university, and travel on the weekends.

I know a lot of students want to study abroad, but often feel that they can’t. I just wanted to share a little of my story in order to tell you that anyone can study abroad if they really want to.

At Grand Valley, many of the semester long programs cost the same or even less than a normal semester at GV. If you can’t study abroad during the Fall or Winter semester because you’re in a program such as the nursing program (like me), there are tons of options for summer study abroad programs instead. With the help of scholarships and working a part time job, I made my dream come true.

The Padnos International Center and the Office of Fellowships helped me navigate finding study abroad programs and applying for scholarships. It can be a daunting task when you start looking into studying abroad, but GV has a lot of resources to help students out with the whole process.

My advice is to just go for it. The other students I know who have studied abroad have all said the same thing: the work you put into studying abroad will be so worth it in the end.

If spending a summer taking classes with international students, eating crepes overlooking a French castle, and hiking in the Pyrenees Mountains on the weekend sounds like something you’d enjoy, then I encourage you to achieve your dream, too.

Plus, I know what I learned abroad will help me with my future career as a nurse, as I care for people from different cultures on a daily basis, and as I will (hopefully) work as an international nurse in the future. I’ve realized that I learn so much every time I travel somewhere new: about people, the world, and even myself.

Studying abroad has been the best decision I have made thus far in my life, which I know sounds cliche, but it really is true.



Adrianna Lee is a senior at GVSU. She is in her last semester of the nursing program and received the Gilman Scholarship to study abroad. 


Student Post: Reverse Culture Shock

When I signed up to study abroad for six weeks in Ghana, I felt that I had a decent grasp on what I was going to get out of the experience. I would meet new people, gain a deeper appreciation for another culture, and get some credits out of the way. While all of those things certainly happened, there were some aspects of studying abroad that nobody really talks about. More specifically, nobody talks about what it’s like when you return.

The end of my trip didn’t really hit until my last flight landed in Grand Rapids. As soon as the plane touched the ground, I started crying and didn’t stop until I left the airport. It was really difficult to explain to my family why I was crying, they had assumed it was just because I was happy to be home. Don’t get me wrong, I was really excited to be home. I had missed my friends and family, as well as hot showers and driving my car. However, this was an emotion that I couldn’t and still can’t completely describe. I quickly became frustrated with how difficult it was to explain my experience to friends and family. Even now, I’m struggling to write this post in a way that I feel accurately depicts how this trip has impacted me. Beyond my difficulties in verbalizing my experience, I have come across people who aren’t very accepting of the things I have learned. While almost everyone has been really supportive of my trip, I’ve had a few people tell me that couldn’t wrap my head around why I loved it so much. For some, I think it’s just something that you don’t understand unless you actually do it.

The other thing that I had to deal with upon arriving home was reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock is exactly what it sounds like, a somewhat turbulent readjustment back into your own culture. For me, this showed itself in a few different ways. First, I felt bored and restless. My purpose felt kind of foggy and it took me a little while to feel like my brain was 100% back in the United States. I also really missed a lot of things about Ghana, especially the people. I had absolutely loved being surrounded by happy people all of the time during my six week stay. Even strangers said “good morning” and “how are you;” I ended up feeling kind of isolated once I had returned home.

While all of this sounds kind of negative, I am so grateful for it. These uncomfortable experiences have forced me to reflect a lot on some important concepts, both personal and universal. I can’t believe how much I have grown as a person not only during my trip but also since returning. While I may not be able to express all of these changes to others as well as I wish I could, I feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin and I would definitely recommend studying abroad to anyone who has questions about the world or themselves. I can’t promise that it will be all sunshine and rainbows, but that’s what makes it study abroad and not a vacation.



Maddi Miller is a junior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College majoring in math and minoring in general business and statistics. She enjoys the cooking channel, spicy foods, hanging out with her sorority sisters, and dancing like no one’s watching. For more insights on her study abroad trip, check out the blog posts on the Ghana Honors Study Abroad Facebook page.

Outstanding Senior of the Year Post: Honors & Opportunities

Gloria LaCourse is the Meijer Honors College Outstanding Senior of the Year. In this blog post she reflects on the Honors College, GVSU, and the opportunities they provided for her.

Entering the Honors College orientation in 2013 was terrifying and exciting at the same time. Gathered with hundreds of the brightest students at Grand Valley, I was unsure where I would fit in or if I would ever find my place amongst the brilliant minds surrounding me. College can be a scary place, but the faculty, curriculum, and atmosphere of the Frederik Meijer Honors College provided the warmest of welcomes and the brightest of futures.

Looking back at my past four years here at Grand Valley, it’s hard to believe how far I have come. When I entered, I feared the unknown, and unwilling to venture into uncharted territory. Now I am graduating this April with many experiences that I’d never imagined possible.

The Honors College heavily promotes studying abroad, promoting students to gain a global perspective of the world. One of my favorite experiences was my trip to Rome to present my Honors Senior Project. I had the opportunity to stand alongside the Director of the School of Accounting as I presented my project titled Family Owned Businesses: International Charitable Contributions & Tax Savings. Not only did I gather a vast array of knowledge from my Senior Project, but I was able to immerse myself in a diverse culture where I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I also studied abroad in London, allowing me to further develop a global mindset in an increasingly diverse America.

My study abroad opportunities were life changing, but my greatest experiences at Grand Valley occurred within my Honors courses. I had the privilege of taking Professor Benjamin’s Big History course during my freshman year. Professor Benjamin instilled in me a passion for learning that surpassed anything I thought possible, developing our discussion-based class into a big family in the process.

In addition to Big History, my science courses weren’t simply classes where I memorized cell structures or the human anatomy. My journey throughout college has focused on real issues throughout the world, not just the details of the basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. We weren’t encouraged to compete, but instead we focused on collaboration. Every other Honors course I have taken has had a similar effect, encouraging us students to genuinely listen to and understand each person’s way of thinking to inspire intellectual conversation and deep learning.

Throughout my four years at Grand Valley State University and the Frederik Meijer Honors College, I have been able to develop an inquisitive mind and deep values that influence every aspect of my life. In addition to finding my new beginning and future here, I found a voice for myself that may not have been possible anywhere else. Although I am leaving in only a few weeks, the Frederik Meijer Honors College is my home.

image1 (1)Gloria LaCourse is a senior honors student set to graduate in April of 2017 with her Bachelors in Business Administration. She was given the 2017 Frederik Meijer Honors College Outstanding Senior Award and is attending Ohio State University next year to obtain her Masters in Accounting. Gloria’s passions include reading, taxes, and her puppy Blue-Ivy!