Colleen Choate ’17 heads to Chennai, India with Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistantship

Honors Alumna Colleen Choate ’17 has been awarded the Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in support of her travel to Chennai, India, to teach at a women’s college from July 2023 to March 2024. Choate graduated from the Honors College at Appalachian State in May of 2017 with her Bachelor of Arts in dance studies. For her Honors College thesis, "Developing Somatic Awareness in Creative Practice" Choate worked with Marianne Adams, professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, as her thesis director, and Dr. Kathryn Kirkpatrick, professor in the Department of English, as her second reader.

Reflecting on how the thesis process prepared her for the Fulbright, Choate shared, “the writing and revision process alone was hugely important in preparing me to apply for the Fulbright. There are two essays you have to write to apply — a Personal Statement and a Statement of Grant Purpose — and they form the most important part of your application. I probably revised each essay more times than I revised my thesis!” Choate further shared how the Honors College prepared her for the Fulbright program:

“My Honors classes at App State really taught me to look at subjects from an interdisciplinary perspective and to draw connections between subjects, interests, and outcomes. That has been key to my thinking post-college, and it helped me put together a well-rounded and holistic application. I also took multiple short-term faculty-led abroad trips through the Honors college, and those were absolutely essential in forming my approach to being a good student and respectful visitor in foreign countries, and ultimately led to my interest in living and learning abroad.”

Choate credits, in particular, the mentorship of Dr. Joe Gonzalez, associate professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Emily Daughtridge, professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance Studies, for helping to shape and guide her journey. She stated, “I am so grateful for them! They also led my final study abroad trip to Cuba, which greatly informed my way of moving through the world, both at home and abroad, and which later directly influenced my desire to live abroad.”

Choate first learned about Fulbright as a sophomore from Dr. Gonzalez, who was her professor and advisor at the time. Dr. Gonzalez recommended it to Choate as a potential future step, and at the time, she largely pushed the idea to the back of her mind. However, when she began working at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in her home city of Richmond, Virginia, and she had the opportunity to attend a Fulbright information session, she remembered Dr. Gonzalez’ advice. She shared, “I decided to attend the information session, and obviously it led me here, a month out from moving to India!"


Photo above features Colleen Choate in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu in February 2020. Photo submitted.

For the past two years, Choate has been working as the Global Learning Coordinator at VCU. After graduation in 2017, she initially took a few years off of academic pursuits, and worked in retail and taught yoga in Atlanta, Georgia. About this experience, Choate shared,

“It was really beneficial to my personal growth and mental health. I want to encourage any students who feel like they are approaching academic ‘burnout’ to take some time for themselves, because I am proof that you can jump back into your professional and academic goals several years later with just a Bachelor’s degree!”

In 2021, Choate completed Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) training and became certified to teach English. As part of her practicum, she worked with the English Language Program at VCU, teaching international students college-level English and preparing them for study in the United States. When a job position opened up in the programming and administrative side of VCU’s Global Education Office, she applied and was hired. In this position, she has been responsible for event planning and long-term programming for international students. She describes, “It has been such a joy to work with these students.”

Choate is very excited to be participating in the Fulbright program, as it fits into her long-term plans of staying in international education. In her work in VCU’s Global Education Office, she has found her passion for working with international students, as well as well as domestic students interested in pursuing cultural opportunities with openness and empathy. She explains, “I am interested in modes of developing not just ‘intercultural competence’ but taking it a step further to ‘cultural humility.’ Participating in the Fulbright program will help me learn how to continue to develop this cultural humility within myself, so that I can be an effective educator of these concepts in the future. I hope to stay in higher education and work with international students in an advising and co-curricular programing function.”

Choate explains that she, “chose to pursue an ETA not only because I already had a TEFL certificate and English teaching experience, but because I want to be interacting with students every day. I believe that being in the classroom is the best way to stay connected to students, stay attuned to their needs, and build relationships with them. Relationship building is the key to student engagement and learning outside the classroom, and it is also key to building one’s cultural humility as mentioned above!” One aspect of Choate’s Fulbright experience that she is most excited for is being in the classroom every day and getting to know her students. She is also very excited about living in India. She has visited before but looks forward to being there for an extended period of time and becoming an integrated part of the community.

Choate advises all Honors College students and alumni who might be interested in a Fulbright award, “to start preparing early, and get very clear on your goals for what you want to get out of participating. I started writing my essays six months before the application was due, and I used all of that time to refine and edit my ideas. I ended up learning a lot about myself in the process.” She also added, “For alums interested in applying a few years after graduation, don’t be afraid to reach out to old professors and mentors for guidance, advice, and recommendations. They want to help you and they will be thrilled to hear from you!”

Top photo features Colleen Choate at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India in February 2020. Photo submitted.

Published: Jul 11, 2023 11:26am