By: Anthony Petro, Staff Writer
Photo by Marcus Dieterle/ The Towerlight
Thamiris Cunha is a Fulbright Scholar at Towson University, where she teaches Portuguese and Brazilian culture. Fulbright Scholars receive merit-based grants for international educational exchange.
“I get the best of both worlds,” Cunha said. “I am a student and a teacher.”
Cunha is a teaching assistant for Portuguese 101, but she said she does most of the basic things that professors do like giving lectures, facilitating discussions and grading assignments.
“I am here to make Brazil more desirable,” Cunha said. “A lot of people think the whole world is here in America, and a lot of Americans need a desire to travel.”
Fulbright is a program designed to bring people from other countries to universities across the U.S. and have them spread knowledge of their respective countries to students as well as learn about American culture themselves.
Cunha studied at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, or the Federal Fluminense University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she is from. After Cunha graduated from and taught at her Brazilian university, her friend told her about the Fulbright program and she jumped at the opportunity.
“It was like destiny,” Cunha said. “I was amazed by my friend’s story and couldn’t believe such an opportunity was available to me. I researched the program, applied and was accepted.”
To be accepted into the Fulbright program, applicants must have graduated college and have a proficiency in the language of their host country.
After submitting the required essays, Cunha received an email listing five colleges that were matches for her skill set and Portuguese expertise. Of the five, Towson had ranked Cunha the highest and chose her.
“Towson was perfect for me,” Cunha said. “The location and the infrastructure as well as the out of class activities. Towson offers so much to do that others in my position at other universities can’t. I love the gym here on campus and I am part of the ice skating club too.”
Cunha said she was shocked when she first saw the stress U.S. college students are under when it comes to tuition.
“I took cost for granted when I was in Brazil because college is free there, and Fulbright pays for my college here,” Cunha said. “Now that I am in the U.S. collegiate system, I see the struggles of students here, their stress over loans and debt, their worry. I finally understand the movie references where parents tell their kids to save for college.”
Cunha, who also audits the classes she takes as a student, described Fulbright as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“I have the opportunity to enjoy and learn just like everyone else, but for free,” Cunha said. “I have the opportunity to get the U.S. college experience for free and it is truly amazing, and I am grateful.”
In addition to having foreign scholars come to the U.S. to teach their respective languages and cultures, Fulbright allows students and teachers in the U.S. to apply and travel to other countries to do the same.
Cunha said she always encourages exchange programs to students.