2017/05/30

Get to Know a Grantee - Dr. Jack Hellerstedt

By Maureen Heydt 

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Jack Hellerstedt
Jack Hellerstedt, a postdoctoral researcher at Monash University by way of the University of Maryland, is serving this year as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to the Institute of Physics at the Czech Academy of Science in Prague. Jack is working in a lab as part of the Jelinek Group, where he conducts research related to the photographing of molecules. Close to the end of his grant year now, Jack discusses his research, which has led him to work across three continents, as well as what his research entails, and what his Fulbright experiences in Prague have been like. 

-------------------------------------- Fast Facts ----------------------------------------
  • U.S. Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Faculty of Science, Monash University, Australia
  • Czech Affiliation: Institute of Physics, Czech Academy of Science, Prague
  • Project: Two-Dimensional Quantum Spin Liquids in Organometallic Molecular Frameworks Studied by Scanning Tunneling Microscopy
  • Major Discipline/Specialization: Physics/Semiconductor Surface Physics
  • Academic Background: Ph.D., Physics and Astronomy, University of Maryland, 2015
  • Favorite Czech phrase: “Pražská kavárna”
  • Favorite quote: "Keep cool, but care."-V. by Thomas Pynchon
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Hello! Can you please give a brief introduction of yourself?
I’m from Minnesota, I was raised in the Twin Cities. I went to elementary school in Minneapolis, and then high school in St. Paul, and I like to think that I can say I’m from the Twin Cities in the ‘twin’ sense of the word. I did my undergraduate at the University of Minnesota. I did physics and math. Life’s been easy in that sense, because I’ve always really known that I enjoy doing what I do now. And then I went to the University of Maryland, where I talked my way into having a research assistantship with Michael Fuhrer. I lived in D.C. for two years, and then he [Michael Fuhrer] called a meeting one day, and he said, “Okay, I’m moving to Australia, and anyone who wants to help move the lab with me to Australia can come with,” and how many chances do you get to do that? So that’s how the next three years I spent in Australia. Then I got this opportunity, so now I’m here.

And what are your hobbies?
In D.C. it was really cool, because out in the Maryland suburbs of D.C. where the university is, they have a dedicated tap dance studio in Tacoma Park. It took me a while living there to stumble upon this, and that was a lot of fun, so I do miss that.

Here in Prague, there are a couple bouldering places. I like it, because it’s sort of like the thinking man’s exercise. There’s the strength component to it, but you also work problems and piece together the solution of how to move from point A to point B, which is a nice way to unglue from a computer.

And when you were looking at Fulbright, why did you choose the Czech Republic to apply to, specifically?
I did a three-month research program in Japan, and so I was on their mailing list. Pavel Jelinek, the guy I work for here at the Institute, which has a lot of relationships with various Japanese institutions, was advertising this postdoc positon, and I got an email in my inbox by proxy. I thought, ‘this looks interesting,’ so I looked him up on the internet and I sent him an email. He had done a Fulbright in Arizona, so he was aware of the program, and he was like, “well, okay, you’re American, why not apply?” So, I cooked up the research proposal, sent it, and now here I am.

And so what work are you doing this year at the Czech Academy of Science?
So they are experts at taking picture of molecules. The big claim to fame here is that they have a very good theoretical understanding of how to achieve the ‘physics’ of achieving sub-molecular resolution. So, you can see a molecule and it’s a bright spot. Then you do physics secrets and then you are able to actually resolve the bond structure. So it’s like from chemistry class you draw what a molecule looks like, and then this is what they actually look like. You can think of this as a camera that can take that picture, instead of just drawing the picture. This is something I’m interested in, and they have this expertise, so that’s how I came up with this idea of here’s a good place to do this kind of project.

Is language ever a problem in the lab?
Everyone speaks English, and the second most widely spoken language is actually Spanish, which was a surprise. They have strong connections in Spain. I’m the token American, and we have Ukrainians and couple of Spanish postdocs, a Spanish Ph.D. student, and there’s another Erasmus student from Spain, so it’s a very international lab.

And what has been the most rewarding part of this experience for you so far?
The guys I’m working with really enjoy what they’re doing, so just to be in an environment where it’s a pleasure, and it [doesn’t feel like] work. I think that’s a real perk in science is, it’s not a job, it’s a pleasure. And these guys in particular, because at the end of the day in science, you have to ask for money to do stuff and as soon as there’s that dynamic, it becomes political. I famously don’t have time for that, and these guys also I think are more interested in doing science and understanding things. Everyone is quite switched on about what they’re working on, and it’s great.

Why are international education and exchanges important for people to experience?
To spend a meaningful amount of time to actually get some perspective on how people live in a different place is how you get perspective. You just have to do it, and deal with the daily how do I feed myself etc., and now I’m in this totally different environment and solve all these mundane human problems. Then you solve them and you come up with a different set of solutions on how to live given a different environment, and it’s like, ‘oh, this is different.’ Here’s what’s better, here’s what’s worse, but until you do that it’s just – I can have some opinions about some place, but until you actually go and do it, you don’t have any sort of experience.

And what does the Fulbright mission mean to you?
This has been a real pleasure to be here and do this. The [Fulbright] English Teaching Assistants is a thing I didn’t know existed, and I live in Prague and work with people who speak English, and the name of the game in physics is to be aware of what’s happening in the larger community and it’s very internationalized in that sense, but to go teach English in some place, that’s a real challenge. This hasn’t been a challenge; this has been a pleasure.

I see, especially now, that since everyday it’s like a game to see how much more horrifying headlines can get, and it sort of makes you understand history a little bit more, and everybody’s putting up the literal walls, and what is nationalism in the ugly sense, it’s this fear of the other, and to sort of come full circle, I think Fulbright has immense value in sending Americans, people with faces and names and stories to interact in that human way, to humanize all of these abstracts. If you can put a face and name and a story on these larger nationalistic ideas, I think that is definitely a force for making everybody be nice to each other more.

What do you plan to do after your Fulbright year?
I’m going to stick around; I’m going to keep working for Pavel here. The science train just continues on uninterrupted.

And do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a Fulbright?
Why would you not apply? Putting together this proposal was actually fun, I enjoyed this one. Get an idea, and then take it. For Americans, it’s like, here’s a very generous gift from Congress to fling yourself out into the world and get some perspective on something. So come up with what you want to do. I think the Fulbright isn’t the ends, it’s the means. That’s how I came to be doing this.

And is there anything else you would like to add?
Got to plug the Fulbright Commission, because they have made it a real treat to be here. This is really nice, these are people who are invested in me being successful in whatever it is I’m doing here, they are very responsive and helpful. I mean, bureaucracy is inevitable and sometimes you’re in situations where the bureaucratic machinery needs to be overcome in in the pursuit of what you’re trying to do and then in other circumstances, these are people who are trying to help you be successful, and that’s always fantastic.


Molecule manipulation images taken during Jack Hellerstedt’s time at the nanosurf lab.

2017/05/24

Get to Know a Grantee - Megan Rodawold

By Maureen Heydt

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Megan Rodawold
Megan Rodawold is a 23 year-old American, serving this year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to the Czech Republic. Megan, a graduate of Grand Valley State University, is spending the year living in the small Czech town of Trutnov, located in the Eastern Bohemia region. For her Fulbright grant, Megan is actually serving as an ETA to two secondary schools this year! Read below to find out how she manages teaching at two schools, and why she loves living in the Czech Republic as a Fulbrighter.




-------------------------------------- Fast Facts ----------------------------------------
  • Hometown: Aurora, Illinois
  • Education: Grand Valley State University, Writing/International Relations, Applied Linguistics
  • School in Czech Republic: OŠ zdravotnická a Střední zdravotnická, Trutnov, and Obchodní akademie, Trutnov
  • Age: 23
  • Favorite Czech word: sníh (snow)
  • Favorite quote: “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss
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Hello! Can you please give a brief introduction of yourself?
I grew up in a city about 45 minutes west of Chicago, and I went to college in Michigan at Grand Valley University. I started as a nursing major, and I think I changed my major maybe five or six times, before ending up as a writing major.

And what are you passionate about?
I would say two things. The first one would be communication, hands down. I really like reading, writing, learning languages, and talking to other people. Stories are one of my favorite things ever! Whether it’s what you’re reading, or what you hear from talking to other people. I’m kind of a word-nerd, so I really like listening to other people. My second thing would be food! I really love food, trying different things, messing around with ingredients and recipes, and learning about different traditions from different places. I love it!

Why did you choose to apply for a Fulbright grant to the Czech Republic, specifically?
It was for a lot of different reasons. I knew I wanted to be in central Europe, because I was really fascinated with this idea of so many countries being really close together, geographically and politically. The Czech Republic in particular, I thought was really interesting, mostly because of its history, and how many changes it has gone through.

Had you been to the Czech Republic before?
No, I hadn’t! I had some friends whose family had come from Czechoslovakia, but me personally, besides visiting Mexico on vacation, I had never been outside the US before this.

And were you nervous to move to a country that you’d never been to before?
I was terrified! [laughs]

But how did it work out, how do you feel now?
I am so glad I did it! It is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s been amazing. I’m so glad it did it!

That’s so great to hear! And how did you prepare for your Fulbright grant?
I went to the library by my house, and I checked out every single book they had on the Czech Republic! Most of them were children’s picture books, but the information and the pictures were good! Besides the library books, I read a lot of travel guides, and spent a lot of time on Google images, and I bought a Czech textbook to try and learn Czech.

What is the town you’re living in this year like?
Trutnov has about over 30,000 people, and it’s in the Eastern Bohemia region. Trutnov is all snuggled up against the Krkonoše mountains, so the scenery and the nature are phenomenal. It’s absolutely beautiful. Most of the places in the town are either walking up or downhill, so that’s been a workout. My favorite place in the town is probably the town park, because it looks down at the city center and the main square, and it has a fantastic view of the mountains. I love it!

It sounds beautiful! And you actually work at two schools this year. What are they like?
Yes, one of the schools is a business academy, and I’m mainly teaching the third and fourth year students. One of the cool things about this school, is that they have this class that’s like a ‘practical company’ class, where they practice running a company! They come up with products and do the marketing and advertising for it. It’s really cool, and it’s really impressive to see what they’ve come up with.

And the second school is a medical secondary school, and there I teach all four grade levels. It’s a little bit different than the business academy, as students are split into two tracks. There’s general studies, and then there’s a track for nursing assistants. They have a pretty specialized curriculum since most of them are going onto medical professions. They also do a lot of hospital training, which is really impressive to be in high school, and have real hands-on experience.

What is it like to teach at two schools at the same time? How do you manage it?
It can be tricky. The hardest days are probably when I teach at both schools, because it feels very disconnected, switching between colleagues and which classes do I have, and making sure I have all of my materials, but I really like the variety.

I’m sure there’s always so much going on, that you don’t get bored with this kind of schedule!
Definitely not! It was hard to get used to, to be honest.

And do you have an extra project you are working on this year?
I do an English discussion class with teachers on Wednesday afternoons, and it’s pretty cool. It’s nice to see them outside of class, and I get to know them better, as people beyond the classroom too, so that’s been cool. In the winter, it’s not so much a project, but I went ice skating every week with a group of girls from one of my schools. I also did a personal project, where I’ve been putting together a collection of recipes from some of the Czech food I’ve had!

That’s such a great idea!
Yeah, I love it. I’ve gotten to do a lot of cooking with some of my colleagues and students’ families. It’s delicious, and really good for learning Czech. I have recipes so far for svíčková, garlic soup, goulash, Czech bread, and some Christmas sweets, like vanilla rolls. I love it so much! Hopefully, I’ll be able to replicate them at home!

And what do you like about teaching English?
I like being another resource for the students. It’s been really cool to watch them interact with me and with each other, and to just get more confident with English as the year’s gone on. I really like learning with them, and also from them, at the same time that I’m teaching. 

What would you say is the most challenging part of living and working abroad?
I definitely would say it’s how isolated you sometimes feel, for a lot of different reasons, like the language, of course. No matter how much you might have practiced Czech, if you didn’t already have a pretty good handle on it, it’s really hard to pick up at first, and to use it at the speed that everyone does, so you end up feeling left out of conversations sometimes. It was hard to get used to not being near friends and family too, and because of the time difference, you really are on your own a lot when you’re not with your colleagues and your students, so it can be pretty lonely at first.

And has that gotten better the longer you’ve been there?
Yeah, definitely! Definitely!

And on the other side, what is the most rewarding part of living and working abroad?
That’s a hard question! I think for me the most rewarding part has been how much I’ve learned. Which is kind of funny, because I came here to teach, but I’ve seriously learned so much about the Czech Republic, politics in Europe, different education systems, public transport and how to use it, and food! There’s just been so much to learn here!

What was one of your favorite things you have experienced so far during your grant year?
There’s been a lot really great experiences, but I think my favorite would have to be the Maturita ball [Czech equivalent of prom and gradation, all in one]. I went to two, because I had one for each school, and it was so much fun! Everyone looked great, and we all danced, and it was such a good time!

Sounds wonderful! And now, you’re more than halfway through your grant. What is something you are looking forward to that is still to come?
Just springtime in general, because all the way since August, all of my Czech friends have been telling me that springtime here is just really beautiful, so I’m excited to see it. I’m going to do a lot of hiking, see some castles, and spend as much time as I can, enjoying this country, its people, and the time I have left.

Why do you think international education and exchanges are important for people to experience?
My answer is kind of contradictory, because I think one of the reasons it’s most important is because it shows you how big the world is, but also how small it is. Big in the way that there’s so much you can learn from the countries, cultures, and people, but small, because we already have so much in common, that you don’t really realize how much until you go to a different country. That kind of duality is cool!

Definitely! And with that, what does the Fulbright mission mean to you?
I think the simplest way I can describe it would be to say, it’s having the opportunity to discover new ideas and gain these perspectives that you would never have considered. I think it’s impossible to leave a Fulbright the same as you were before.

What do you plan to do after your Fulbright year?
That’s a fantastic question! I don’t really know to be honest. There’s so many things that I want to do that it’s hard to narrow it down, but I think this summer I’m heading back to Chicago, to spend time with my family and friends, and I think immediately after that, I really want to kick it up a notch with language and my language abilities. I want to keep learning Czech, get back into Spanish, and I want to get better at it and use it more, and maybe pick up another language. Other than that though, I don’t know!

And do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a Fulbright?
Do it! Absolutely do it! It’s terrifying, and it’s exhilarating, and it is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, and it is 100 percent worth every second.

And if you could sum up your Fulbright experience in one word, what would it be?
Fulfilling!

And is there anything else you would like to add?
Just to say thank you to everyone who is involved with Fulbright, and who helps make it run. It’s been amazing since the moment I opened the confirmation email, and I can’t imagine not having done it. And a special shout out to the Czech Fulbright Commission! They’ve been phenomenal, and immensely supportive at every single turn!

Megan Rodawold with her students

2017/05/12

Get to Know a Grantee - Thomas Lepke

By Maureen Heydt

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Thomas Lepke
Thomas Lepke is serving this year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to a secondary school located in the small town of Velešín, Czech Republic. Velešín, population 4,000, is now home to Thomas and his wife Geena, as they work to integrate into their community by building relationships that they hope will last a lifetime. Thomas, an alum of the prestigious Teach for America program, is teaching English at a technical school, where he also runs an English Club. His club has coordinated events with the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Prague, including facilitating an Iraqi youth dialogue, where students in both the Czech Republic and Iraq were able to communicate with each other via Skype. Read below to find out more about what living in a small, southern Bohemian town for a year has been like for Thomas and his wife. 

-------------------------------------- Fast Facts ----------------------------------------
  • Hometown: Lakewood, Colorado
  • Education: University of Colorado, Boulder - BS, Business Administration, Arizona State University - Masters of Education
  • School in Czech Republic: Střední odborná škola strojní a elektrotechnická, Velešín
  • Age: 27
  • Favorite Czech word: na zdraví (cheers)
  • Favorite Czech food: česneková polévka (garlic soup)
  • Favorite quote: “The shadow proves the sunshine”- Switchfoot/ “Follow your feet”-Heath Ledger, ‘A Knight’s Tale’
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Hello! Can you please give a brief introduction of yourself? Where are you from, what you studied, and what you have been doing in the time before Fulbright?

I graduated in 2008, and after graduation, I volunteered for a program called the World Race, where I went to 11 countries in 11 months, and volunteered in each country with different non-profits or faith-based organizations. After that, I interned in Senator Michael Bennet’s office in Washington, D.C. There, I did some tutoring with a non-profit, and decided I loved teaching, and I wanted to become a teacher. I signed up for Teach for America, and I did that for two years in Phoenix, Arizona. During my time in the corps, I got married to my wife Geena, and one of our life goals was to travel and live overseas. We are really passionate about nations and international education, so Fulbright was a great option to fulfill our dreams to experience more of the world and to have a better international perspective.

What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about a lot of things. First of all, about people, and that’s one reason why I really want to become a teacher. I believe that there are a lot of students out there that have really broken homes, and to be a force for good in their lives is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things I think you can do with your life. That’s why I got into education. I’m really passionate about living my life to the fullest every single day. I’m always learning new things. A couple of my favorite things to do is, I play the Scottish highland bagpipes, I absolutely love that, and I love experiencing new places. I love rock climbing, mountain biking, and spending time with my wife. I’m also really passionate about men, and one of my big things is, I think guys have a really great opportunity in this day and age to be really great, honorable, integritous men, and so I am passionate about being a husband and also just being a person, a teacher, and a mentor to my students.

Why did you want to come to the Czech Republic specifically for your Fulbright grant?
One of the first things that got me interested was some of my ancestors came from the Czech Republic, and actually one of them, the only thing he brought with him to the U.S. was his Bible, which is pretty interesting. We still have that Bible today, it’s in Czech, and so it’s really cool. Then we started thinking about where would we want to live for a year, and the Czech Republic is very central. I also wanted a professional focus as well, with comparing educational systems to that of America’s. The Czech Republic has more of a decentralized model, and I was interested in that. It’s interesting to see how it works in another culture. I also love bagpiping, and I wanted to check out the Bohemian bagpipes. There’s an amazing bagpipe festival in Strakonice, and I’ve started taking lessons, too!

And even the local beer in Strakonice is called Strakonicky Dudák, meaning Bagpiper! That’s great you’re taking bagpipe lessons! And what is the town you are living in this year like?
Velešín is an amazing town. The town is 4,000 people, and it’s essentially an agricultural hub to all the smaller, little villages in the surrounding area, and it’s 30 minutes outside of the main city of České Budějovice. We live in the school, and across the street is a giant factory or company where they make a lot of aero-space and mechanical parts. They work with Boeing and Honeywell and some of these other American companies. Many of our students will actually go work or have internships there.

Yes, what is the school that you’re working at this year like?
There’s about 200 students. It’s a technical school, so they focus on electricity, electrical engineering, and computer science or networking databases. The school is made up of one wing that has three floors, and the alternative building is full of machines that are maybe 100 years old! They’re pretty old, and the students work on these machines to start learning hands-on technical skills.

And do you have an extra project you are working on this year?
We run an English club, and we’ve been able to do a lot of exciting things with them! Two of my favorite things are actually, we worked with the State Department to have an Iraqi youth dialogue, which was really fun. We Skyped with students in Iraq, had a conversation, and I think our students were pretty receptive to that. We also had a diplomat come, and talk to them about all sorts of things, like the education system of America, what it means to be an American, and that was really fun.

Right now we’re working with Charitas, a charity run here by the Catholic Church. We are working with students or children from the Roma community, and one of things we’re going to try to do is start to integrate some of our Czech students to come help us. We’re trying to get permission and see how that will work, but that’s one thing we’re looking into right now, which would be cool, and help build some bridges.

What are some of your other out of school activities?
We did a 10-week ballroom dance class. We’ve been able to travel to a pretty good amount of the Czech Republic, and we go on fun trips with our colleagues. We’ve done everything from mushroom hunting, to rugby games, to going on a Škoda bus trip throughout the Czech Republic, and sleeping in abandoned castles, which was really exciting! We’ve been able to go to soccer games, to all the festivals throughout the year. We’ve been able to integrate ourselves, so we’re always busy. We always have a ton to do, and we’ve also been trying to hang out with people, longer term, more one-on-one, and really just investing in the community.

What was it like relocating as a couple to another country?
Yeah you know, my wife and I are really adventurous, so it was not an issue at all. Before we came here, we walked across Spain on The Camino de Santiago, and when it was time to do our Fulbright, our legs were sore and our feet had blisters, and we were tired, but we were just happy to be here. We really take every experience as an experience you can only get once, and it’s been great being together and having my best friend here. We’ve been able to experience this all together, and I think that’s one unique thing about being married, I’ve been able to share it with somebody every single day. That’s one thing that not all ETAs get, because they are usually the only American in their town. They don’t always get to share it with someone, but I have a built in partner all time, which is really nice.

And what do you like about teaching English?
English is such a fun language. When you’re overseas, you’re trying to teach others about America, your culture, and your identity, and I think you end up learning more about America, your culture, and your identity by trying to teach it to others. You really get a chance to reflect. It’s so special when you see students have that lightbulb moment in their heads, and seeing from the beginning of the year to the end what students can really do. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to do that.

What is the most challenging part of living and working abroad?
We don’t have a car. We struggled with this just because we do live in a small town, which means the last bus to our town is at 8 o’clock on Saturday night. It does run a little sporadically, so if you want to go somewhere, you really have to plan. You forget how nice it is to have the luxury of transportation, and to be able to go where you want, when you want to.

And what is the most rewarding part of living and working abroad?
Building relationships with people. We built a lot of relationships that I feel like will be with us for a long, long time in our lives. Every day is an adventure. It’s really what you want to make it, and we’ve been able to have an adventure every single day we have been here and that’s the best thing.

What was one of your favorite things you have experienced so far during your grant year?
Some of the most memorable moments have been times students take us out, which is always so much fun. One of our friends, Tomáš, took us out to a frozen waterfall, or we went walking with another student Vojta through Český Krumlov, which is his hometown, this amazing destination, and he was showing us all the local places to go. I think those moments are some of the most rich and totally memorable. It’s nice to go out, and explore new restaurants, go out to concerts and theater. It’s wonderful. And the Christmas markets are so magical; they are really something to experience in life.


Why are international education and exchanges important for people to experience?
I think it’s really important. People often search for information that confirms their own biases, and if you look at today’s political climate, you can see how people have just dug into the trenches, and the rhetoric that’s spoken is only confirming biases or beliefs that people already hold. And we really have to be careful about this, because it is dangerous, it’s absolutely dangerous. We need to be able to hear other ideas, and take that into account, and figure out what truth really is, and I really believe international education does that for us.

Geena and I were able to have a lot of great conversations with students about racism here in the Czech Republic, and I feel like we’ve been able to break down a lot of barriers. It’s been really fascinating to see with students. I think people-to-people is one of the strongest education tools that we have, culture-to-culture, and that’s why I really promote international education and exchanges.

And with that, what does the Fulbright mission mean to you?
I think the Fulbright mission is something to be embodied. It’s something to take the tradition, and let it be a part of you for the rest of your life, to be open to other people, to accept other people. You should accept people, but be critical of ideas, right? So, I think the Fulbright has been such a great experience, because it’s given me the ability to really come face to face with another culture, and another group of people who think totally differently from me, and it’s been an amazing experience.

How do you think your life will change as a result of this year abroad with Fulbright?
I think one thing that my year has taught me is Velešín is a slow town, and I’ve really been busy. I’ve filled my days up 100 percent, to where I go, go, go, and I don’t give myself any time for reflection, and I’m so thankful for this year, because I don’t want to go through life that busy. I want to go through life well balanced, and I think it’s unhealthy to be that busy all the time. I know it’s very common for people to overwork themselves, but I don’t think that makes good people. I don’t think that makes good life, and so one thing I’m going to really take with me back home, is to remember to always find a balance wherever I am. To wake up, enjoy a cup of tea, look at the sunrise in the morning, smell the forest, and remember all the amazing gifts I’ve been given and privileged to have in this life, and then figure out how do I share that with others. The reflection piece is huge, and I never want to give that up.

And what do you plan to do after your Fulbright year?
Right now, I’m waiting to hear back from one job, which if I get it, I’ll be working on the Hill in education policy. If not, probably going to move back to Denver and work in education. And in politics, I’m going to be moving more into the political realm.

Good to hear! And do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a Fulbright?
Yeah, just be really open and honest with your application and what you want. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, and Fulbright, don’t do it for the name or for the prestige, because it’s a year of your life. If you’re just doing it for a name, there’s a lot of ways that you can spend your life and don’t just do it for that. Do it because you’re passionate, because you’re intrigued, because you want to interact with students, you want to teach, and you want to explore other cultures, and then I think you’ll be in a great spot.

How are you feeling about everything at this moment?
Blissful. Everything has been great. I honestly have no complaints, I’m really happy. It feels like a golden year, and we don’t get those every year, so I’m really just holding it and grasping it, and I’m sad to see it go. This has been a great opportunity, and one that I would definitely repeat.

If you could sum up your Fulbright experience in one word, what would it be?
Whimsical.

Thomas Lepke, with his wife, Geena.