UI student sets off to Portugal on Fulbright Grant

Rita Guzmán will travel to the coastal city of Porto to work as an English teaching assistant.



Rita Guzmán was born and raised in Decorah, and her time at the University of Iowa has led her to Chicago with an internship and Dublin and London with Study Abroad. Her next stop, now as an alumna, will be to Porto, Portugal, on a Fulbright Grant.

Guzmán will use a B.B.A. in marketing, minor in Portuguese, and certificate in international business to help higher-education students in Portugal tighten their grasp of the English language and culture. As her community-outreach aspect of the grant, she will create a music business club that will connect students to promoters and administrators at local music venues, giving Guzmán the chance to include her love of music to her time abroad.

Guzmán’s parents are from the Dominican Republic, and they’re responsible for much more than her head full of proud curls and her fluency in Spanish.

“My parents are very academic,” Guzmán said. “And they’ve always instilled the want and ability to travel.”

Her mother’s first trip to the U.S. was on a Fulbright Grant to study at Emory University, in Atlanta, and her father is on the faculty at Luther College in Decorah, where he directs the Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Program.

UI Professor Phillip Round, a Fulbright Faculty Committee member and two-time Fulbright winner himself, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that “as the member of a family who recently immigrated to Iowa, [Rita’s] personal experience suggested she would be good at relating to recent immigrants to Portugal, who are likely to be among her students.”

With family in Brazil, Guzmán said, she’s long felt passionate about “international everything,” and traveling to Portugal is the perfect opportunity for her to improve her Portuguese and expand her opportunities to work abroad. Still, her dream job (at least one of them) is to live and work in the Brazilian music industry.

While Guzmán didn’t choose to pursue music in school, she sees marketing as a “social science” that she can use in any field. In that sense, the social aspect of the Fulbright is one of the most exciting ways she’ll apply her degree and expand her skills.

“I love meeting people and talking to people,” she said. “I really want to try to find a conversation partner or a conversation club, so I can practice my language skills and make a lot of friends.”

UI Fulbright Program adviser Karen Wachsmuth couldn’t agree more with Guzmán’s description of the Fulbright program as an exchange of ideas — an exchange that values personal growth as much as academic progress.

“The idea behind the Fulbright Program is making these significant personal connections to promote understanding of different peoples, different cultures,” she said. “Fulbrighters are not just people with a high GPA.”

“Rita is very accomplished, but she’s very down-to-earth,” she added. “She speaks really well, she’s very articulate, and she has an enormous amount of energy. Positive energy.”

Guzmán encourages anyone considering a Fulbright to apply, saying the process of applying alone gave her a huge amount of experience to draw on.

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