Featured Alumni: Zoe Gioja

December 3rd, 2015

Zoe poses with a group of her middle school students.

Zoe Gioja: Founder of Fulbridge

Each month, FKAR talks with program alumni to learn about how they are pursuing their careers, personal interests, and how their Fulbright Korea experience has prepared them for their next steps.

This month, FKAR reached out to Zoe Gioja, a 2014-15 ETA in Mokpo, who is working on a newly-founded initiative aimed at connecting Fulbright ETAs across the globe. Zoe offers insight for current grantees while explaining her ideas behind Fulbridge.

FKAR: What are your top recommendations that future ETAs should think about during their time in Korea?

Try and see different parts of the country if you can, and be an adventurous eater. Seize your opportunities – go out of your comfort zone. And no matter your level of Korean, go out on a limb, and try speaking. It can be really easy to stay silent because you’re worried about sounding stupid, but the more you take risks, the more you’ll learn. Those moments of connecting with people of the host country in their language, no matter how imperfect, are really satisfying. Oh — and go see the Mokpo dancing fountain!

FKAR: Have you had the opportunity to stay connected to the individuals you met in your grant, including your co-workers, homestay, or other Fulbright grantees? If so, who and how?

I stay in touch with my homestay family, co-workers, and ETA friends through social media and Skype. I’m also working on an initiative called Fulbridge, a website that aims to connect ETAs from Fulbright programs around the world. The site will allow ETAs to share lesson plans, read about each others’ experiences, and connect with each other through travel. We’re working on creating a global lesson database, and enabling grantees to connect via an interactive map of ETA placements.

I got the idea for Fulbridge while traveling with ETA friends during winter break, gathered team members in my second semester, and am now currently working to launch the beta version of the site in East Asia.

FKAR: Do you have any advice for current grantees (either those entering their grant year or those who have recently finished their grant year)?

Dive in. Say yes to things as much as you can. Sometimes I had the impulse to set boundaries and separate myself. Sometimes, that’s healthy. But there were times when I wanted to say “no” to things that sounded a little intimidating or overwhelming – like sleeping on the floor with my host family instead of sleeping in my bed, or going to a dinner after school with no English department teachers, or feeling too tired to start an arts and crafts project with my host mom. Often, the times I said “yes” to these opportunities were some of my most memorable experiences.

Zoe Gioja was a 2014-2015 ETA who taught at Jeongyong Girls Middle School in Mokpo. Zoe graduated from Smith College in 2013 with a degree in History, with specific interests in 19th and 20th century European and East Asian history. Zoe is currently self-employed as a writing coach, helping students with ESL, college essays, and organization study skills. Zoe is an avid fan of Adventure Time and also enjoys reading, writing, and life drawing. 

If you would like to learn more about Fulbridge, you can check out the beta version of the website here: http://www.fulbridge.org

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