Allison Paludi ’14 has been preparing for this opportunity for most of her St. Lawrence career. Even before going to Kenya in the spring 2012 semester, Allison was taking Swahili language classes, watching Kenyan TV shows and even cooking traditional foods. Taking part in the University’s Kenya Semester Program, she said, “transformed”
“Living and learning in Kenya while interacting with host families and locals completely changed how I interact with students, professors and even family members back in the U.S.,” said Allison of Delanson, N.Y. “I was no longer the shy, reserved student that didn’t have a voice in the classroom.”
During her stay in Kenya, Allison spoke Swahili with her host family and while interacting with locals, which helped her better learn the language and also helped her understand that learning can take place outside formal learning spaces. She also saw the potential of experiential learning while she interned one summer for a Colorado program called Book Trails, which provided children with summer literacy programming on local ranches.
“I believe that learning can take place beyond the walls of the classroom,” said Allison, who will graduate on May 18 at St. Lawrence’s Commencement ceremony as a global studies major and African Studies minor. “I’ve also been a part of the Global Dialogue Center at St. Lawrence. And, I’ve seen that by creating a space for people, informal learning can take place through their discussions and debates.”
As part of the Fulbright, Allison will be assigned to teach English at school in Kenya. And because in Kenya people often come together over chai, or tea, she plans to initiate a “chai time” program, where people can practice their English skills outside the normal classroom by discussing current events. The experience will help develop her own teaching skills while fulfilling her passion for intercultural communication.
“Allison’s Fulbright award is the culmination of several years of engagement with East Africa both on and off-campus,”
That research fellowship allowed her to complete a Senior-Year Experience at an American-based nongovernmental organization in Uganda, where she will return on May 28 to work as a volunteer coordinator before beginning her Fulbright assignment in Kenya.
“My head is still kind of spinning at the moment,” she said. “All of the stars must have aligned for me to return to East Africa right after graduation. This is going to be a good jump start for me before I begin working in Kenya.”
Carotenuto said Allison epitomizes the ways students can integrate off-campus study into their academic and professional goals.
“All these experiences culminated in her successful application for the Fulbright,” he said. “Allison’s prestigious award shows the potential St. Lawrence students have to compete with the very best across the country and secure professional placements around the world.”
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program, awarding approximately 8,000 grants annually.
What has struck Allison most about her experiences in East Africa was witnessing the desire to learn students had despite adversity in their lives.
“I think we in the U.S. really take for granted all the resources and facilities that we have at our disposal,” she said. “There’s a place that has less resources than we’re used to, but they are still just as eager – if not more eager – to learn.”
About St. Lawrence University:
Founded in 1856, St. Lawrence University is a private, independent liberal arts institution of about 2,400 students located in Canton, N.Y. The educational opportunities at St. Lawrence inspire students and prepare them to be critical and creative thinkers, to find a compass for their lives and careers, and to pursue knowledge and understanding for the benefit of themselves, humanity and the planet. Through its focus on active engagement with ideas in and beyond the classroom, a St. Lawrence education leads students to make connections that transform lives and communities, from the local to the global. Visit www.stlawu.edu.
List of St. Lawrence University Fulbright recipients:
· 1986 Erik Craft, West Germany
· 1991 Susanne Steinmann, Morocco
· 1997 Thomas McFadden, Germany
· 2000 Brendan O’Dell, Germany
· 2008 Alexander Tedeschi, Russia
· 2010 Joanna Fassett, India
· 2012 Andrew Nguyen Le, Trinidad and Tobago