Three Virginia Commonwealth University alumni have been selected as recipients for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for the 2022-2023 academic year. 

Octavia Christopher, Michael Portillo, and Sofia Syed, all spring 2022 graduates, were selected as recipients of the Fulbright grant. Christopher studied biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, Portillo studied economics in the School of Business, and Syed studied Philosophy in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The program operates in over 160 countries worldwide. More than 2,000 grants are awarded annually to graduating seniors, recent alumni, and graduate students. Recipients of the award can use their grant money to teach English abroad, conduct research or pursue graduate studies. 

“I was drawn to apply to Fulbright because it offered the opportunity to engage in cultural exchange and experiential learning abroad while I’d be able to use my skills to help students along their own academic journeys,” Christopher said.

Christopher, Portillo, and Syed received English Teaching Assistantships (ETA), which will allow them to teach English abroad.

Christopher will be based out of Colombia, where she will teach English at the University of Cartagena. While serving as a Fulbright scholar, Octavia plans to learn Spanish and complete a community engagement project that utilizes dance as a vehicle for increasing community health education. During her time at VCU, Octavia participated in the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students, Muévelo, and was a Lead Preceptor for the Cellular and Molecular Biology department. 

Syed will be based out of Bulgaria, where she will teach English in a secondary school. During her time in Bulgaria, Sofia plans to immerse herself within the community and learn to communicate in a Slavic language. While at VCU, Syed participated in United2Heal, Russian Club, and was a member of the Pre-Law Society. In the future, Sofia plans on attending law school. 

“The [Fulbright] application process seemed rather daunting and ambitious, but [the NSO] relentlessly guided me through every question and concern,” Syed said. 

Portillo ultimately decided to decline his Fulbright award to pursue his graduate studies as a Pickering Fellow

VCU’s National Scholarship Office (NSO) assists students and recent alumni with the application process for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and other esteemed awards. To learn more about external funding opportunities, schedule an appointment with a member of the NSO staff.

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