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Emerson Students Heading Abroad on Fulbright Scholarships

Noreen Plabutong ’19 was selected as a Fulbright Scholar and will travel to South Korea in July to teach English for a year.
By David Ertischek ’01

Two Emerson College students were recently selected to receive Fulbright Scholarships, becoming the ninth and tenth Emerson students chosen for the prestigious grants.

This July, Noreen Plabutong ’19 will travel to South Korea to teach English, and Gabriela Mancuso ’19 will travel to Colombia to teach English at National University. Scholarship recipients have their airfare paid, and receive a stipend for housing.

The Fulbright Program is devoted to increasing mutual understanding between the U.S. and the people of other countries.

“To be part of that mission is really exciting and a big honor for me, because it was such a selective and difficult application process to go through. And to be selected among all of the amazing applicants, motivates me to do well, and represent not only the U.S., but Emerson abroad,” said Plabutong, a Writing, Literature and Publishing major.

William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship winners are an impressive and distinguished group. Since 1946, there have been more than 325,000 recipients from more than 155 countries. That includes 59 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 72 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients and thousands of leaders across many industries.

“The Fulbright Scholars Program is one of the most prestigious intellectual and international exchange programs in the world. In encouraging both Noreen and Gabriela to pursue Fulbright Scholarships, I was confident that such experiences would empower them to return to their own communities as an agent of positive change,” said Dr. Anthony Pinder, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs – Internationalization & Global Engagement.

“Fulbright’s selection of two Emerson students in the same year, only underscores the College’s strong commitment to playing a central role in helping students realize their leadership potential, while fully understanding the importance of global civic engagement/service through their personal endeavors…This a proud moment in the evolution of Emerson’s global engagement ambitions.”

Plabutong said she had thought about taking a gap year after graduating from Emerson this spring, and applied for a Fulbright Scholarship after hearing about it from a friend. She said the application process, which was focused on two essays, was intimidating.

Gabriela Mancuso '19 headshot
Gabriela Mancuso ’19

Mancuso concurred that the application process was daunting, but certainly worth the opportunity to go back to Colombia, where she did an Emerson Global Pathways course.

Both students are also excited about teaching English in a foreign country.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher [of English] at the college level … for as long as I can remember especially since coming to Emerson,” said Mancuso. “The classroom environment can really make or break the learning experience. I’m obsessed with English as a WLP major. To be able to create a classroom environment will be the best thing ever.”

Being Thai-American, Plabutong had thought about applying to Thailand, where she has family and has previously visited. She added she’d like for her family and friends to come visit her in South Korea, so they can share her experience of a new culture.

Being able to teach English straight out of college is not lost on Mancuso.

“I think it is an amazing opportunity to do something I really want to do. It’s very hard to be like, ‘I like English, writing and poetry’ and do something with it. A lot of students at Emerson can relate [to not being able to do what they want to do after graduating],” she said.

When applying, scholar candidates choose a country they’d like to be sent. Plabutong said she’s very interested in Korean culture and their education system, which is very different from what she’s experienced. She also hopes the experience provides her with more insight for her next career move.

“I plan to go into publishing, but would like to bridge that with other cultures and a global perspective. I am still considering teaching as a profession,” Plabutong said.

Mancuso is more resolute in what she wants to do after her Fulbright Scholar experience, hoping to get a graduate degree and become a professor.

“I think it’d be my dream job to teach poetry workshops and Latin American literature at Columbia University in New York City,” said Mancuso.

10 Emerson College students have been Fulbright Scholars since 1967:

  • 2019 – Gabriela Mancuso (English Teaching Assistant) – Colombia
  • 2019 – Noreen Plabutong (English Teaching Assistant – South Korea
  • 2013 – Josua Luckens (English Teaching Assistant) – Colombia
  • 2013 – Camron Terwilliger (Creative Writing) – Canada
  • 2006 – Mary Specht (Creative Writing) – Nigeria
  • 2005 – Edwin Corbin (Drama) – Venezuela
  • 2005 – Emily Garr Political Science) – Mexico
  • 2003 – Carolyn McCarthy (Creative Writing) – Chile
  • 2000 – Ian Finch (Creative Writing) – New Zealand
  • 1967 – Bert Houle (Acting) – France 

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