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Language scholar awarded Fulbright to study in Mexico

April 05, 2013

Samantha de Palo, a student in Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, has been granted a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Mexico.

ASU is one of the top 10 producers of Fulbright Scholars in the United States, and is tied with Yale and Berkeley for the No. 5 spot.

A double major in Spanish and English (linguistics), de Palo applied for the award on the advice of Janet Burke, the associate dean of Barrett. After a yearlong process of essay writing and interviews, she was notified of the good news last week.

“I’ve been celebrating all week," she said.

She will leave in late August to begin her nine-month stay in Mexico as an English teacher. She has not yet been assigned an exact location, but she says she would be happy in Mexico City or the Yucatan Peninsula.

“I completed my honors thesis on the Aztecs because I’m really interested in their culture and indigenous language. I’m hoping that while in Mexico I can continue my studies on these topics,” she said.  

As a student in the School of International Letters and Cultures, de Palo gained invaluable experience being exposed to multiple languages. To focus her studies, she decided to solely concentrate on Spanish and add on linguistics, a degree offered by the Department of English, to broaden her humanities focus.

“I’m at a place where I’m about to graduate and my career path isn’t quite clear. That used to make me anxious but I’ve realized that my experience in the humanities has given me a more diverse education and, therefore, more opportunities in the future she said.

These opportunities have already taken her in places she didn’t expect to go. She secured a tutoring position with the help of the Honors College. Through this she discovered her passion for teaching.

“I want each student to walk away with a sense of confidence. Our educational system focuses so much on math, science and test scores that kids who do not excel in these areas feel like they are stupid. That’s not true and I hope to empower them,” she said.

The Honors Devil is excited to use the Fulbright scholarship as an opportunity to learn about the educational system in Mexico. She says that while she will miss her family and rescue dog Po, having the opportunity to immerse herself in a new culture is something she could never pass up.

When asked about her dream job, de Palo jokingly replied, “Queen of the World.”

Kidding aside, she says she is a firm believer in creating positive change in her community. Whether in the form of advocating for her beloved state of Arizona, or becoming a university professor through which she could inspire and educate youth.

No matter her path, the future is bright for this young Sun Devil.

The Department of English and School of International Letters and Cultures are academic units in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.