Seniors Win Fulbright Scholarships to Teach in Taiwan

Two Nebraska Wesleyan University seniors have been awarded Fulbright scholarships to teach in Taiwan next year.

Samantha Wessels, an elementary and special education major from Weeping Water, will teach English at an elementary school in Taiwan. Michael Pirnie, a political science and global studies major from Omaha, will teach English at an elementary or junior high school.

The Fulbright Scholarship is the flagship international education program sponsored by the United States government. Forty-five Nebraska Wesleyan students have won the prestigious honor with 31 of the awards coming in the past decade.

Wessels’ interest in Taiwan was sparked by a NWU Global Service Learning trip to China in 2011. While there she had the opportunity to teach English for a few days to children in ShanXi Province and Nanjing. That experience prompted her to enroll in a Mandarin language course the following semester.

“My friends thought I was crazy taking Mandarin for no credit with a full plate of senior-level education coursework, but I knew I had to explore this interest,” she said.

As a junior Wessels participated in Nebraska Wesleyan’s Capitol Hill Internship Program in Washington, D.C. where she interned with the United States Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Wessels recently completed her student teaching in Ireland where she taught first grade at a boys school.

Following a year in Taiwan, Wessels plans to return to Nebraska to teach and eventually work in education administration, advocacy, or policy.

Pirnie became familiar with the Taiwanese culture while taken a Mandarin language course his first year at NWU. Respect for his professor Chun-Yi Su— a native of Taiwan — along with other courses on China and Taiwan led to a year abroad in China where he studied in Beijing and Nanjing.

“The experience was so large that it is hard to articulate how it shaped me,” said Pirnie. “I feel my time in China grew my self-confidence and perspective on life in untold amounts.”

Pirnie hopes his yearlong experience in Taiwan will provide him with a holistic view of the challenges that education policy faces in the world. In addition to teaching, Pirnie plans to continue taking Mandarin courses. He eventually plans to pursue a career in international education policy.

The Institute for International Education has consistently recognized NWU as one of the top national producers of Fulbright scholars. 

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Samantha Wessels will teach English at an elementary school in Taiwan.
Michael Pirnie will use his Mandarin language skills to teach in Taiwan.