Alyssa McCauley, a senior education major at Illinois State University, has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award to Turkey for the 2021/2022 academic year. McCauley, a native of Troy Grove, is a senior secondary education English major with a minor in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

When McCauley found out she had received the award, she said “I couldn’t believe it. When I was applying for it a year in advance, I just thought there was no way that I would ever get it.” 

In fact, not so many years ago, McCauley didn’t even see herself attending college.

“My family has always believed in me, but academically, I was bullied by a system that wasn’t built for me. When I made it to high school, I considered dropping out, but when provided positive feedback and encouragement by my teacher, my perspective began to shift; I started seeing myself as someone who was deserving and capable of learning and becoming. The reason that I went into teaching was because I wanted to be there for students too when they needed similar encouragement.”

Rather than dropping out, McCauley graduated early and attended community college. When she was looking for a four-year school to complete her degree, she said “I wanted to go somewhere with a good education program, and I heard amazing things about ISU’s education program.”

She has not regretted her decision at all. She credits her ISU courses with Dr. Lisya Seloni, as well as others. “Dr. Seloni taught me the value and complexities of multilingualism.” She credits other faculty members as well like ISU Fulbright advisor Dr. Lea Cline for helping her achieve her dream of earning a Fulbright award. Given the fact that a few years ago she didn’t see education in her future, “this Fulbright just means so much to me because of all the work that I’ve done…it was hard work, but now all of the work has meaning. It’s so rewarding and amazing how life works.”    

For anyone considering a Fulbright application, McCauley has one piece of advice, “Do it. Apply for it. I mean, you’re either going to get it or you’re not, but at least if you apply for it, there’s opportunity there. And don’t be afraid of it. It’s a lot of work but stay invested.”

McCauley is currently a student teacher at Chicago Public Schools’ Benito Juarez Community Academy. She is excited about the opportunity to spend nine months living and working in Turkey where she will “be around people who might think differently than me.” She added, “Also, the experience of being immersed in a community where English is not the dominant language will shift my perspective and make me a more flexible educator.”

The Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program 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 primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

The grants, administered by the Institute of International Education, are competitive and extremely difficult to obtain. For more information on the Fulbright program at Illinois State visit Fulbright | International Studies and Programs – Illinois State or contact one of the ISU Fulbright faculty advisors Lea Cline, Erin Mikulec, or Jason Roblando.