Fulbright Scholar heads to Argentina

Argentina calls UI grad

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Fulbright Scholar heads to Argentina

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By Gage Miskimen

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“Iowa will prepare you, challenge you, and change you. You will change the world.”

Samantha Westphal aims to live out the University of Iowa Office of Undergraduate Admission’s slogan on her journey to Argentina this coming year.

Westphal, a UI Class of 2017 graduate with a Bachelor of Science in human physiology and a minor in Spanish, will be an English teaching assistant in Argentina through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Westphal is one of 16 Fulbright recipients at the UI, so she will have an opportunity to travel and live abroad while contributing teaching skills.

The application process for the grant took over a year, Westphal said.

“I started [applying] January of my junior year,” she said. “I wanted to apply because I studied abroad in Chile for a semester, and I really enjoyed the experience. I also knew a couple people older than me that got the scholarship, and it inspired me to apply. I wrote about 15 different drafts, and I learned more about myself and my future goals.”

As part of the grant, Westphal said, she will design a community-engagement project in Argentina that goes hand-in-hand with her degree in human physiology.

“I want to organize a student health club where people can work out together and be active,” she said. “I would also give lessons on nutrition and stress management.”

Fulbright program adviser Karen Wachsmuth said Westphal was a great candidate for the grant.

“Samantha is just a great person,” she said. “She is incredibly talented and active as an ambassador and citizen at the UI. She was really active in the Honors Program and displayed a lot of leadership qualities working for the UI [Hospitals & Clinics], the Spanish Department, Orientation, and swimming lessons before she came here. She’s just really involved.”

Westphal’s academic excellence and clear goals played a part as well, Wachsmuth said.

“She was also able to clearly articulate her future professional goals and how they would go beautifully with serving as an English teaching assistant,” she said.

Wachsmuth said she hopes all of the 16 recipients will be able to share their talents and develop them even more in their future roles abroad.

“I hope they can share all the things they’ve learned here at the UI and make relationships across the world, because it changes you in wonderful ways and makes your world bigger,” she said.

Abby Hellem, a friend of Westphal’s who is studying abroad in Peru, said in an email to The Daily Iowan she witnessed the hard work and dedication Westphal put in with applying for the grant. The two met while training to work for the University Orientation Program. They were assigned to live together as summer roommates through the training process.

“I was able to see Sam’s work ethic, her gentle spirit, and her ability to make sacrifices,” she said. “For the whole summer, after a long day of work, Sam would go home and dedicate a lot of time to her Fulbright, and she never once complained about it.”

Honors advising director Holly Yoder, who has known Westphal since her freshman year, said she suggested Westphal as a potential applicant for the grant.

“She came on early as [an] Honors peer adviser and worked to help recruit and advise Honors students,” she said. “She’s been on my radar pretty constantly throughout her four years here.”

Yoder said Westphal demonstrated the ability and the passion to reach out across cultures.

“She had skills and advantages over other candidates,” she said. “She can get to know people and cultures and build a life within another culture. She’s lived and studied abroad. She’s well-prepared for this opportunity.”

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