Alumni Spotlight: Where Are They Now?

October 22nd, 2016

The FKAR team had the privilege of interviewing two ETAs with differing interests and career paths post Fulbright. Brett Fitzgerald and Sarah Chen (ETAs 2013-14) generously offered to share their insights on the Fulbright experience and its impact on the work they do today.

Sarah Xiyi Chen, ETA 2013

What is your occupation/future occupation?
I am a second-year law student at Berkeley Law School, and I plan to litigate on behalf of plaintiffs after I graduate, hopefully in civil rights cases.

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
Well, I’m sure y’all have already heard “Don’t Compare,” so…find activities that sustain you over the long-haul. I loved teaching, but to stay focused and motivated over the year, I also studied for the LSAT, volunteered for Fulbrighter-led initiatives and local Naju events, and traveled on weekends with my friends and host family.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
As a cultural ambassador for the United States in the year that the Black Lives Matter movement grew, I often felt conflicted about my feelings towards my home country. The juxtaposition of living abroad and working in a small, tight-knit community like Naju made me realize I wanted to work in America to promote justice at a community level instead of working at the level of international diplomacy.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
Few of the teachers at my school spoke English, and my Korean didn’t advance far beyond Jungwon’s basic beginner level. The communication barriers between me and much of the rest of the school became especially apparent after the Sewol ferry tragedy in the spring of my ETA year. I wish I could have been more understanding and involved at that time of grief and protest.

What is your favorite memory from Korea?
A year and a half after we left our Fulbright Korea year behind, fellow ETA Preston Nanney and I went back to Korea for the first time since, where he proposed on the beach at Haeundae, Busan!

What is your favorite quote?
“Immigrants–we get the job done.”

 

Brett Fitzgerald, ETA 2013

What is your occupation/future occupation?
I currently work in San Francisco at MuleSoft as an Account Development Representative. I’m planning on studying for the GMAT and going to business school sooner rather than later. From there I hope to own my own company.

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
Love your students and appreciate your time in Korea with the other ETAs. It flies by way too fast. If you laugh off the little idiosyncrasies and small things you will be much happier. Travel and explore often.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
My life’s work is still very much “buffering”, as my students would say. However, I can already tell Fulbright Korea will be a source of inspiration, friendship, and love in my life for years to come, which will unquestionably continue to impact my personal journey.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
The Korean language.

What is your favorite memory from Korea?
Too many to only pick one, but if I had to, my favorite memory in the classroom with my students was teaching them about ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge 18 times in the span of 1 week during the winter. I was very cold with lots of laundry to do, in addition to having the entire faculty thinking I was crazy by the end of the week.

What is your favorite quote?
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” -Jackie Robinson

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