courtney vaughan
By Roanoke College News

Roanoke student to teach English in Laos through Fulbright program

A visit to Cambodia during a May Term travel writing course was the first time that Roanoke College student Courtney Vaughan '15 ventured outside of the United States.

Now, two years later, Vaughan, a literary studies major from Pennsylvania, is headed to Laos to teach English for a year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

The Fulbright's selective English Teaching Assistant Program places college graduates or young professionals in schools overseas to teach English courses, help local English teachers and at the same time, serve as cultural ambassadors for the United States. 

Vaughan's grant is one of 1,900 that the U.S. government-sponsored program awards annually.

Fulbright was created in 1946 as an international exchange that offers grants for international graduate study, research and teaching at universities or primary and secondary schools. It operates in more than 140 countries.

Vaughan does not yet know the university in Laos at which she will teach. Her work begins in September.

Landing a Fulbright grant has been her goal since she was a freshman at Roanoke. She said she remembers hearing about other Roanoke students who earned Fulbright awards and telling a friend, 'We can get a Fulbright.'"

That desire, coupled with the three-week Cambodia trip, sparked Vaughan's interest in Southeast Asia. She said she specifically is interested in Laos' French influence. Vaughan has taken French language courses.

"There's something intriguing about Southeastern culture," said Vaughan, who studied in the Czech Republic last spring and is certified to teach English as a Second Language.

She also spent two summers teaching ESL at Wyoming Seminary, a prep school in Pennsylvania.

Vaughan, who is in Roanoke's Honors program and is a tutor in the College's Writing Center, began applying for the Fulbright a year ago. She spent much of last summer writing drafts of her application essays. 

Jennifer Rosti, an English professor and director of major scholarships and fellowships at Roanoke, critiqued Vaughan's countless essay drafts.

"For her, it has been a journey," Rosti said. "Her whole story connects with the school nurturing her for this." 

Other professors in the College's English department, including Dr. Paul Hanstedt, who led the Cambodia trip, also mentored Vaughan and followed her throughout the Fulbright process. Both Hanstedt and Rosti said they cried when they learned of Vaughan's Fulbright acceptance.

"This is someone who really did her work," Hanstedt said. "She found it in herself, the drive to get through college and take advantage of a lot of opportunities...You just have this sense, her life is never going to be the same because of this."

Vaughan said she is considering going to graduate school and teaching ESL as a career. Published April 22, 2015