April 5 was a big day for senior Summer Hunter-Kysor. Her parents traveled from their home in Pennsylvania to watch her as she presented at her final Student Research Conference. It had been a great day as she supported several her friends who also were presenting at the conference. Later in the day, she and her tennis teammates were headed to a match at Capital University when she got the call she’d been anticipating for six months.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program had selected Summer as an English Teaching Assistant in Germany for the 2017-18 academic year. She is the first-ever undergrad to receive a Fulbright award through Heidelberg.
“I was really shocked when I got the news. It was emotional and stressful, waiting for the decision,” said Summer, who will now forgo choosing among six graduate schools (Cornell and Syracuse, among others) for her once-in-a-lifetime Fulbright experience to teach English in Germany.
Although Germany was her first choice, it won’t be her first trip there. Summer is quite a world traveler. Last year alone, she spent a month teaching English as part of Heidelberg’s long-term exchange program with Tianjin Normal University in Tianjin, China. She followed that with an extended fall term in Heidelberg, Germany, through the University’s American Junior Year Program, then headed to Argentina for another study abroad experience.
According to Spanish professor Dr. Cindy Lepeley, Summer’s language proficiency in both German and Spanish will serve her well, not only during her Fulbright year, but into her career. As a freshman, Summer enrolled in both German and Spanish, even though she chose a double major in international studies and history.
“She quickly earned a reputation in the Languages Department as one of our strongest students,” said Cindy, herself a Fulbright recipient. “Her varied and deep experiences abroad … have made her an extremely flexible and mature young person. .... Her varied life experiences have prepared her well.”
Summer feels at home in the world. Her family has nurtured her love, curiosity and appreciation of other cultures. “Ever since I can remember, my family has hosted exchange students who either lived with us or who were students at Juniata College (where both of her parents are employed),” she said. “That really got me interested in other cultures and languages.” Summer and her brother decided to study abroad in high school, which was her first time in Germany. “At that point, I realized I loved anything international.”
News of Summer’s Fulbright didn’t surprise her professors. Her faculty advisor, Dr. Marc O’Reilly said she “personifies the Fulbright scholarship.”
“Summer is a smart, thoughtful and committed student who’s always thinking ahead,” Marc said. “She’s worldly, intellectually curious and eager to connect interculturally with those she encounters.”
Cindy added, “Summer has a gift for relating easily and positively with people whose life experiences are very different than her own. … As a person who loves language learning, she will bring a joyful enthusiasm to the task of teaching a second language to others.”
On the flip side, she has appreciated her professors’ guidance and advice throughout the Fulbright application process. “Cindy, Marc, Emily (Isaacson) and Robin (Heaton) were always willing to give me honest advice and good strategies,” she said. Additionally, she reached out to Dr. Jim Tuten, a history professor and Fulbright advisor at Juniata. His help in editing her application documents was invaluable.
For her Fulbright grant, Summer will be in the classroom about 15 hours a week. She’ll also explore the possibility of an internship or taking classes at a nearby university as a way to immerse herself into the town where she’ll live.
She’ll find out soon after graduation which city and school placement she’ll receive. Regardless, she’s looking forward to returning to Germany and reuniting with friends and former host families there. “It’ll be a great experience and a nice break to have before going back to grad school.”