Asian Studies major earns Fulbright to teach in South Korea

Christopher Propst ’11, an East Asian Studies major, has earned a prestigious U.S. Student Fulbright Grant, which he will use to immerse himself in Asian culture by teaching English to South Korean students.

The Fulbright program aims to foster mutual understanding among nations through education and cultural exchanges. Each year the program sends Americans to more than 150 countries to teach English, conduct research or creative projects, or commence graduate work.

Propst is one of three Willamette students to earn the award this spring. He says that the Fulbright will allow him to gain practical experience while also continuing to study.

“The support system is what drew me to the program,” he says. “This is an opportunity to teach while ensuring that I’ll have the resources to succeed.”

He won’t know for certain where he’ll go and what age of children he’ll teach until he arrives in South Korea, but he is looking forward to the new perspectives and opportunity to expand his arsenal of teaching methods.

Cumulative experience

This won’t be his first time abroad, however. Propst spent time in Kenya during his high school years, at a camp for middle-class children in Nairobi where he worked toward raising environmental awareness. He also studied abroad at Tokyo International University during his junior year at Willamette, an experience that he says was fueled by his studies.

“The courses in East Asian studies haven’t just prepared me, they have influenced everything I do and study,” he says. “What started as ‘trying something new’ with Japanese turned into my major discipline.”

While at Willamette, Propst immersed himself in the East Asian cultural scene as well. He worked as a tutor and International Peer Coach for Tokyo International University of America (TIUA) and was a teaching assistant for an International Political Economy class last semester.

Making ties

Propst, who began as a history major, credits a number of courses outside of his discipline for contributing to his education. He says that the blend of focuses offered by the liberal arts experience harmonizes with what he views as the necessity for the rational mind to also consider what is relevant.

“Willamette has showed me that you can’t hide behind your discipline,” he says. “An economics major may understand the figures, but he needs a background in politics and culture to enact his policies. A science major may understand why and how something works, but perhaps not why people are unwilling to undertake its challenges, and so on. Everything tends to be multidisciplinary.”

For more information about national scholarships for students, visit Student Academic Grants and Awards.