After a rigorous application process that took several months, Holley LaFever is going to Germany for nine months.
The Cookeville native is one of five Tennessee Tech University students to win a Fulbright Award since 2007. The 2009 graduate will leave at the end of August to teach English to students ranging in age from 10 to 18 in a small town in northwest Germany.
Through the Fulbright Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, approximately 1,500 students and recent college graduates from across the country travel to teach and conduct research overseas every year. It is one of the most prestigious scholarship awards in the country.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, I keep thinking it’s no big deal,” the Upperman High School graduate said. “People sound so astounded, it really hasn’t hit me. I’m just so happy they chose me.”
Committees from both the U.S. and Germany, in LaFever’s case, had to accept and approve her application for her to go. The American committee approved her this winter and the Germans a few weeks after.
LaFever is the first TTU student from Cookeville to win the award, according to French professor Debbie Barnard, who helps students navigate the lengthy Fulbright application process, which is more than a dozen pages long and includes both personal and statement of purpose essays.
“The great thing about the Fulbright is it’s not geared to the Harvard graduate who has had every advantage,” Barnard said. “To me, she’s the epitome of what the Fulbright is for. It’s for people who are bright and talented but don’t necessarily have the means to travel.”
As a student, LaFever split her time between classes and work at the Community Pathology Laboratory to help pay for her education. The German major is the first in her family to get a college degree.
After her nine months in Germany, LaFever says she may take the GRE and look for a program that will take her to South Korea to teach English; through friendships with several South Korean exchange students, she has developed an interest in the country and language.
“Around here, people don’t take learning another language very seriously,” she said. “If this turns out to be something I really like to do, maybe I’ll be a German teacher or a German professor or an ESL teacher.”