UI alum sets sights on Argentina

UI graduate Katherine Will is headed to Argentina thanks to a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. Only three UI students have received the awards to go to Argentina.

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UI alum sets sights on Argentina

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Marissa Payne, [email protected]

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Katherine Will is set to travel from the green fields of Iowa to the mountains and pampas of Argentina for a year.

Will, a recent University of Iowa graduate, received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship award to go to the Latin American country. She is one of 16 UI students to receive a Fulbright for 2017-2018, a record high for the school, surpassing the UI’s 15 Fulbright recipients in 2016.

In Argentina, Will said, she will work as a language-learning assistant in a teacher-training college while also doing a community-engagement project.

For her community-engagement project, Will plans to set up an art workshop in which students can read and design their own comics. The idea came from a Latin American comics class that she took at the UI, Will said. She also had prior experience teaching a comics class at a summer camp.

“I thought it was really helpful to be able to read the comics and see the images along with the words because then if I didn’t know what certain terms were, then with the pictures, I would be able to piece it together,” she said.

She said the Fulbright program appealed to her because she did not have the opportunity to study abroad during her undergraduate career, but it would allow her to solidify her Spanish skills and apply classroom content to the context of a real-world situation.

Aside from her studies as a Spanish major, Will said she has gained experience through her work as a Writing Fellow and undergraduate writing tutor in the Writing Center and also by working with international students in summer programs.

These summer programs helped her see how rewarding it could be to work with elementary- and middle-school students, she said, and inspired her to earn her master’s in foreign-language education. She said she would like to teach at a dual-immersion school, though she sees herself most likely teaching at the high-school level.

“I feel like in the U.S., there isn’t too much of an emphasis on learning a second language or at least there wasn’t in Iowa through my K-12 education, so that’s also part of the reason I want to become a teacher,” she said. “I think it’s important now more than ever that everyone learns a second language from a young age, particularly Spanish.”

Although Will said she is concerned about her language skills and being able to effectively communicate while abroad, Carol Severino, the director of the Writing Center, said Will is a multitalented individual who is skilled at writing, speaking, and listening and could do a lot with her Fulbright scholarship.

Will wrote her Honors thesis about tutoring in Spanish and Spanish writing, Severino said, and the thesis will be used to help set up a Spanish writing center in the future.

“Her awareness of language and her awareness of writing will [allow her to have] empathy with other learners,” Severino said.

Karen Wachsmuth, the UI’s Fulbright program adviser, said the committee that selects Fulbright recipients is not looking for students in cookie-cutter mode, and Will — who, in addition to being fluent in Spanish and skilled in art, plays in an orchestra and string quartet — is evidently a student who follows her passions and is open to discovering new things.

“She may be the first person from the United States [the students in Argentina] ever meet,” Wachsmuth said. “She will facilitate cultural exchange, and she’ll make relationships that may last a lifetime. In so doing, she’ll represent the United States well, and she’ll bring back experiences to her professional life in the U.S. that will make her an even more effective teacher.”