Abilene Christian University senior Autumn Vaught’s career plans involve cross-cultural teaching, so it’s fitting that she was studying abroad in Uruguay when she first discovered the prestigious Fulbright program, and she was teaching English at an Abilene high school when she learned she had been selected one of its next honorees.
Vaught, a secondary education major from Burke, Virginia, found out this month she received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award for an English Teaching Assistantship for the 2021-22 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. For nine months next year, she will work as an English Teaching Assistant in a plurilingual high school in the Galicia region of Spain, but it was in Montevideo, Uruguay, where she first heard about the program from a fellow student and previous Fulbright grantee, Lindsie Lawson.
“Originally, I was going to do the Master of Education program here at ACU, but I decided to try for a Fulbright first instead,” Vaught said. “This grant combines teaching, Spanish and experiencing different cultures – perfect for me.”
Vaught is a third-generation ACU student and said her experience in college has been all she hoped it would be. She’s been involved in a sorority, participated in a mission trip to an orphanage in Costa Rica, and studied abroad in Uruguay.
“I have enjoyed every step of the way,” she said. “Though some things changed and some stayed the same, I have been blessed to find little pockets of community each semester.”
She knew early in life she wanted to be a teacher, and in high school she developed an interest in teaching Spanish. Vaught found ACU to be the right fit for her college experience and career preparation. As a student teacher in Spring 2021, she’s not on the ACU campus as often, but she’s stayed connected to the university community.
“The support I have received is above and beyond,” she said. “I still attend a small group hosted by Anne Hocking, whom I met while in the Worldwide Witness pre-departure class. I still email one of my Bible professors, Dr. [Christopher] Hutson, and one of my English professors, Dr. [Jeremy] Elliott, when I have questions about literature or the Lord. I really appreciate their thoughtful answers even though I am not in their classes anymore.”
News of her selection to the Fulbright program arrived while she was teaching English class at Cooper High School, where she is a student teacher.
“I felt shocked – so excited but also super small,” Vaught said. “It blows my mind because I know so many people apply for this scholarship, most of whom could do just as good a job overseas as I hope to. I don’t think the weight of this experience will truly sink in until I am boarding the plane this fall. My prayer now is that God will prepare my heart well this summer to see what I can learn and who I can serve in Spain for the next nine months.”
Students interested in applying for Fulbright grants or other prestigious scholarships utilize ACU’s Office of Major Scholarships. This office is part of the Honors College and assists all students interested in applying for competitive awards. ACU was named a top-producing Fulbright institution for 2018-19.
Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected in an open, merit-based competition that considers leadership potential, academic and/or professional achievement, and record of service. Fulbright alumni include 60 Nobel Prize laureates, 88 Pulitzer Prize recipients, and 39 who have served as a head of state or government. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program and is also supported by people around the nation and partner countries around the world.