Fulbright Ambassador Sophie Woodruff of New York City visited the campus of Bluefield College, Thursday, February 10, to share her experiences as an international exchange student and to encourage BC students to expand their educational horizons through Fulbright study abroad.
A product of a poor single parent home in Louisiana, Woodruff parlayed her experiences as a non-traditional student into a Fulbright Scholarship. She applied for and received a Critical Language Enhancement Award to study the Turkish language in Istanbul, Turkey, and to do additional research in Frankfurt, Germany.
Funded by the United States Department of State and managed by the Council of International Exchange of Scholars, the Fulbright Scholars Program is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” Since its inception more than 60 years ago, nearly 300,000 scholars have studied, taught, researched and exchanged cultures through the program.
As a Fulbright Undergraduate Scholar in Turkey, Woodruff learned the Turkish language. Later, she researched the influence of integration, racism, and social entrepreneurship in the lives of Turkish immigrants to Germany.
“It was a life-changing experience,” said Woodruff, who now lives and works in New York City as a program associate for CDS International, a firm that promotes global training opportunities. “I highly recommend you apply and take a study trip abroad, because you really, really grow.”
Speaking to Bluefield College students from a variety of disciplines, Woodruff shared not only her experiences as a Fulbright Scholar, but her advice on how to apply for the grants. She explained the different scholarship programs, the countries open to visit, and the application process. Most importantly, she emphasized how money is available to qualified students who apply.
“It’s basically an opportunity for study abroad where the government pays for everything,” said Woodruff. “The most important thing you have to do is find the country that’s best for you, the one that fits your interests, your skills, and your study desires.”
Woodruff’s visit to the region was made possible by the Fulbright Alumni Ambassador Program, a program designed to identify, train and engage former Fulbright Scholars in serving as representatives, recruiters, and spokespersons for the program. The Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors represent the program’s rich diversity and play a key role in increasing knowledge about Fulbright opportunities.
“The Fulbright program is the U.S’s flagship program for cultural exchange,” said Woodruff, a recent college graduate. “Seventy-five percent of people my age do not even own a passport for travel abroad, and that’s a problem for our country. We need cultural exchange to experience different cultures, to learn new languages, to better understand the history and traditions of other countries, and to be better ambassadors for our own country.”
Her visit to Bluefield was made possible by the Bluefield State College Office of International Initiatives in collaboration with Erica Meade and Vieux Toure of BSC’s Student Government Association. Her stop on the Bluefield College campus was arranged by BC’s Global Education Program and its director Dr. Gerardo Cummings and Emily Sears, president of the Bluefield College Student Government Association.
“The information she shared was very good, and her enthusiasm was palpable,” said Dr. Cummings. “Her excitement over the fact that we’re offering an in-house study abroad program motivates me to once again communicate what a great opportunity it is for our students to travel abroad, represent our college, country and ideals, and engage with other cultures.”