Over the past near-three decades, Centre College has provided more than 50 Fulbright scholars, and the tradition continues this year with Emily Donlon ’14, who received a Fulbright Scholarship to be an English teaching assistant at the Nikola Vaptsarov Foreign Language School in Shumen, Bulgaria.
After graduating from Centre, Donlon accepted a position at the Kentucky YMCA Youth Assocation as the regional director. While in that position, she focused on working with and supporting middle and high schools in Eastern Kentucky.
She left her position at the YMCA late in 2016 to pursue her goals of traveling aborad, and in the meantime, she has been working at Danville High School as a long-term substitute librarian.
Donlon explained how she came to a point in her life where she was able to make the conscious decision of prioritizing abroad travel.
“I felt confident about where I was in my personal and professional life and decided to take the plunge,” she said.
She enrolled in a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course and researched various programs like the Fulbright award that would give her this opportunity.
Donlon will be serving as an English teaching assistant in Bulgaria for 10 months. She will leave for Sofia, Bulgaria, at the end of August for two weeks, for an orientation with other Fulbright ETAs.
When the school starts in September, she will be working with high school students to help them improve their confidence and command of English. Along with teaching, she will conduct a community engagement project in Shumen.
The Fulbright projects are meant to help connect ETA’s with the community outside of the classroom, she explained.
“My intention is to work in conjunction with Bulgarian English Speech and Debate Tournaments (BEST Foundation), while focusing on some community and leadership development opportunities — both of which align with my background in the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association,” Donlon said.
“Even with a plan in place, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that working in education demands adaptability and flexibility. I will be receptive to the needs of my community and go from there.”
While the Bulgarian Fulbright Commission doesn’t require language fluency, during the term, she will be offered a stipend for language lessons.
“I started taking Bulgarian lessons even before I became a finalist, so I’m definitely going to take advantage of some in-country tutoring,” she said.
As a recent Centre graduate, she is able to look back at her time on campus and the things that have prepared her for this next step in her life.
“Centre always supported and encouraged student-led initiatives, and that mindset followed me into my professional life with the KY YMCA and into my plans for my future classroom in Bulgaria,” she said.
by Kerry Steinhofer
April 21, 2017