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UTSA alumna shares her experience as Fulbright Scholar in Colombia

UTSA alumna shares her experience as Fulbright Scholar in Colombia

Moore recently returned from teaching in Colombia where she and her family spent 10 months through a Fulbright Scholarship.

(Aug. 19, 2019) -- When the prospect of teaching English in Colombia on a Fulbright Scholarship presented itself to Clarissa Moore, having two small children wasn’t a hindrance, but an opportunity.

Moore, who completed a graduate certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language at UTSA in 2018, recently returned from a 10-month stay in Manizales, Colombia, funded by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board.

“They had an amazing time. We had four Fulbrighters in one experience,” Moore said of her family.

UTSA is home to a large number of non-traditional students, but opportunities like this oftentimes seem unattainable.

“We want all of our students to have the same life-expanding opportunities that come from learning in and experiencing a different country. We’re proud that Clarissa decided to take this step not only for herself, but her family,” said Bianca Schonberg, director of UTSA Education Abroad.

While Moore taught and did her community projects, her oldest child attended school where he learned Spanish as her husband and youngest stayed home and created their own experience.

Fulbright Scholarship awards are presented to more than 1,900 U.S. citizens to conduct research, teach English and contribute to communities abroad.

“I got a lot of professional development while there, working with eight to 10 different professors throughout the course of the grant,” Moore said. “I got to witness their different teaching styles – I came home with a lot in my toolkit to apply in my classroom.”

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It’s designed to build lasting connections between U.S. citizens and people from other countries.

“We learned a lot about Colombia, food and culture. People were really friendly to us and my kids did amazing. It was really interesting to see how they adapted so well. They’re really resilient and open to new things, which I didn’t really realize here,” Moore said. “We’ve moved quite a bit, but this was totally different.”

In addition to teaching, Moore volunteered with several organizations. She used her background in film to create a promotional video about breastfeeding for a nonprofit, and helped with a fundraiser and website, among other projects.

While she was in Manizales, Moore encountered a national education strike for several months. Her family used that time to explore the country.

“One of the suggestions I would have for Fulbrighters is: don’t get discouraged if plans you go in with don’t end up happening,” she said.

Despite changes in plans, however, Moore says the ten months she spent abroad gave her an advantage she’ll take into her next endeavor.

“Even though it was only 10 months, it was a super concentrated experience – even six months were actually equivalent to years of teaching experience,” she said. 

Moore’s family is getting back to their usual schedule since coming back to San Antonio early this summer. She is applying to teaching jobs as her family gets settled, but the experience they had as a unit will stay with them.

“I was only one of 90 with a family...but it was definitely doable and it was a life-changing experience not only for myself but everyone in my family,” Moore said. “Even if my kids don’t remember it, I think the skills it helped them cultivate were worth the sacrifices and things we had to do to make it happen.”

“Clarissa has taken a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and engaged in a unique cultural exchange opportunity offered by Fulbright,” said Rebecca Pollack, senior director of UTSA International Services. “The message she sent by doing so is that there is no excuse. In this global environment, we should learn more about other countries and immerse ourselves in their cultures, even when it’s inconvenient and may seem impossible. We are so proud of her achievements and we are looking forward to hearing more about her future endeavors.”

Marissa Villa

Learn more about the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Explore UTSA study abroad opportunities.

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