May 22, 2014
Westerville, OH—Otterbein University graduate Rachel Mooney, class of 2014, has high hopes for what’s ahead of her as a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan where she will hone her teaching skills in an elementary school beginning in August.
“I hope to gain confidence and global experience in teaching,” says the early childhood education major. “I want to bring back a lot of knowledge I can use in the classroom. It will be a challenge but also a great adventure and experience.”
There is also a sense of pride in winning a grant from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the nation’s flagship international educational exchange initiative. Sponsored by the federal government, the Fulbright program has provided future American leaders with an opportunity to study, conduct research and teach in other countries for more than 65 years. It awards 1,700 grants annually and operates in more than 140 countries.
The Fulbright grant will cover Mooney’s travel and living expenses for her 11-month stay in Taiwan. She will assist a local educator, teaching English to elementary students on Kinmen Island, which is home to about 50,000 people.
Mooney has traveled to Europe, but this will be her first trip to the Far East. She says a lot of countries place their Fulbright scholars in high schools, so she was pleased to land the elementary-school position in Taiwan.
“The students are of an age I really enjoy,” she says. “I’m passionate about teaching that age group.”
Mooney has wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl growing up in New Lexington in southeast Ohio. Part of that comes from helping care for her siblings — she’s from a family with six children — and part of it was being inspired by her mother, Brenda, a former fifth-grade teacher.
It only took one education course during her freshman year at Otterbein to convince Mooney that she wanted to make teaching her career. She says the lessons she has learned at the university helped prepare her for her big Fulbright adventure. That includes field experiences at 10 schools that taught her about racial and socioeconomic diversity. It’s the sort of learning that is one of the “Five Cardinal Experiences” at the core of an Otterbein education.
“Otterbein encourages a mindset of hands-on experiences and reaching out on diversity,” Mooney says. “It always encourages students to take risks and take on challenges, including global experiences.”
Mooney credits a number of Otterbein faculty members with helping steer her through the Fulbright application process, writing letters of recommendation and advising her on what to expect when living abroad.
“There’s been a lot of support from the faculty,” she says. “My inbox was filled when people learned I was awarded the Fulbright.”