Carolyne Mesa has been selected as a Fulbright Finalist for the English Teaching Assistant Program to Uzbekistan. This is FGCU’s first Fulbright selection since 2016. Carolyne is an alumna of the Honors College who double majored in communications and philosophy. She is a first-generation Cuban American woman from South Florida. Her grandparents were illiterate farmers and her parents were blue-collar workers who sacrificed much for Carolyne to attend college.
She took full advantage of this opportunity and is currently working on her fourth language (English, Spanish, Italian, and Uzbek). Carolyne volunteers as a Guardian Ad Litem for Lee County while working as an IT Consultant. She was awarded the Critical Language Institute Scholarship for Uzbek last summer and Uzbek II this year at Arizona State University. She is also formally trained in Latin Ballroom Dancing. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide.
How did your mentor encourage and foster your research and academic trajectory?
It really does take a village. The Study Abroad Office, Honors College, Courtney Satkoski, and the faculty within the Philosophy department have harmoniously allowed me to cultivate and multiple my talents. For example, my junior year I completed a semester abroad in Macerata, Italy. Matt Ryan helped me navigate the process to study abroad in a foreign country. We spent months figuring out my housing, courses, visa, etc. together. I would not have been able to study abroad for six months in a Italian hilltop town if it were not for his guidance. Additionally, Courtney Satkoski instilled in me a passion of service learning I did not know I had. I took the opportunity to volunteer in real elementary classrooms, women’s shelter, and as a teaching assistant in multiple classrooms throughout my time in FGCU. I graduated college with over 800 hours of service learning and eventually won the “Excellence of Civic Engagement Award in 2019” thanks to her recommendation and support. Even today, I cannot fathom my life without service and being heavily integrated in our community - all thanks to her teachings. Lastly, the Philosophy department has given me a powerful toolkit to examine this evolving world. The maturity and rigor of this program helped me explore my own thoughts, ideas, natural intuitions in an intimate sanctum with brilliant professors and equally curious peers. My craving for deeper understanding and wonderment is directly linked to the dedicated: Dr. Culbertson, Dr. Hentrup, and Dr. Aho.
What does the OCF mean to you?The Office of Competitive Fellowships was a huge need on campus prior to arriving. I knew I wanted to apply for a total country immersion program. However, these applications take months of skill and preparation, and prior to the settling of this office, I was not selected. However, after graduating and completing an intensive language study, I contacted the Honors College for assistance in my next steps. Lo and Behold, I was greeted by the newest office on FGCU campus. I stepped into a freshly painted office. What I thought was going to be a simple meeting, ended up becoming a conversation of the life I had always dreamed of leading. From day one, Dr. Rafferty-Osaki, a ‘tiger mom’ of sorts, worked tirelessly and relentlessly with me to ensure I had the tools to succeed. I was amazed how one could conceive every single possibility, situation, or problem that could occur during this application cycle - then recreate them in real life situations. For example, Dr. Rafferty-Osaki put together, in two days, a panel of faculty to do a mock of my Uzbekistan ETA interview - twice. This level of preparation gave me a great deal of confidence going into the actual interview. Whilst, this office certainly pushed me to win the Fulbright, it also, and perhaps most importantly, gave me a platform to understand my capabilities, aspirations, and the impact I have as a first generation Cuban-American. If you are considering attending FGCU or visiting the OCF, know this is a wondrous springboard and privy to new ideas and opportunities. It is truly a beacon of hope for the aspirational few who wish to manifest life-propelling changes.
What is the Fulbright U.S. Student Program?
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 2,000 grants annually in all fields of study and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide. More than 390,000 Fulbrighters from the United States and other countries have participated in the Program since its inception in 1946.