Fulbright Recipient Spotlight: Maya Chesley, ETA, Panama


Maya Chesley, from Chesapeake, Virginia, received her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Spanish from VCU in 2015. During her time at VCU, she was a member of the Honors College and was involved with VERDE and the Poictesme Literary Journal.

Chesley will be teaching English in Panama as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Maya ChesleyAfter her Fulbright year, Chesley will enter a Ph.D. program for TESOL and Spanish language, then go on to become an English as a Foreign Language professor for speakers of Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Danish.

What is your research focus or proposal for your Fulbright award?
As an ETA for the Fulbright program, I will be teaching English to students in the school systems of Panama. At the same time, I will be working on a small research project in which I examine the effects that the environment has on the people of Panama. I will do so by interviewing citizens of the city I will be staying in. I will record what I learn in a journal, in a creative nonfiction style. Hopefully, I will be able to maintain this journal both in English and Spanish.

What initially drew you to apply for the Fulbright?
Ever since I taught my first ESL class with the Bridge Center in 2013, I have known I wanted to be a TESOL professor, especially for Spanish speakers. I knew that if I could win a Fulbright ETA grant to a Spanish-speaking country, I could get more experience teaching English to Spanish speakers, and at the same time I could improve my own Spanish-speaking skills. In particular, Panama interested me because of its tropical climate and the numerous species of flora and fauna it has in its rain forests. While I worked on teaching English, I could also learn about the impact the environment has on the people of Panama and document my findings.

What do you plan on doing after your Fulbright year?
After returning from Panama, I will enter a PhD program for TESOL and Spanish language. I will continue to learn Portuguese and begin my studies in Modern Standard Arabic as well. I hope to become an EFL professor for speakers of Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Danish.

What advice would you give to future applicants?
Make sure you have enough time! And use your resources! The Fulbright application is not a humongous time commitment, but it does take a good chunk of time to do everything that’s required of you. That said, the National Scholarship Office (NSO) will help you stay on track each step of the way. And while I’m on the topic of the NSO; use them! They are a great resource. Some of the people who work there have even gotten Fulbright grants themselves. So they know what they’re talking about!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I apply for a Fulbright? 
Maya and her ten fellow recipients from VCU worked with the National Scholarship Office (NSO) at Virginia Commonwealth University. The NSO works with VCU alumni, graduate students, and undergraduates who wish to compete for prestigious national and international scholarships, such as Fulbright.  If you are interested in applying for Fulbright or other nationally or internationally competitive scholarships, please contact the NSO at natlscholar@vcu.edu or (804) 828-6868.

How many students from VCU are awarded the Fulbright? 
With this latest group of Fulbright Student Scholarship recipients, 42 VCU students and recent alumni have been offered Fulbright awards since the National Scholarship Office was created in 2005.

Can you tell me more about the Fulbright?
Established in 1946, the Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries, through the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills. Sponsored by the United States Department of State, the Fulbright Program provides funding for students, scholars and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. Learn more at us.fulbrightonline.org.