Andorra Bound
Taking Flight

Melanie McGrath ’13 / 2014-15 Fulbright Fellow

Melanie McGrath has loved the English language for as long as she can remember. As a child, she recalls being an avid reader and constantly correcting her family’s grammar.

“I should have always known I was going to be an English teacher,” she says.



But she never imagined herself teaching English in Andorra.

After graduating in December 2013 with a bachelor of arts in English Education and a minor in History, Melanie taught high school English in Charleston, SC for a year. In April, she received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for the 2014-15 academic year. She will be teaching English to high school students in Andorra, a small country in the Pyrenees mountains.

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international education exchange program. Participants are chosen, through a rigorous application progress, for their academic merit and leadership potential. “When I found out I had been accepted, I couldn’t believe it,” Melanie says. “It took me a few days to actually absorb that I’ve been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

At Coker, Melanie was a highly involved and engaged student. A soccer player and member of honor societies, Melanie also worked in the writer’s studio and went on several study abroad trips. In short, succeeding academically came naturally to her—but she says she never would have pursued the Fulbright without Associate Professor of History Kevin Kenyon.

Melanie first became interested in Andorra while on a study abroad trip to Catalonia in 2012. Kenyon, who led the trip, noticed her interest in the region and encouraged her to continue her studies. After returning to Coker, she completed an independent study course on Pyrenean history and decided to pursue the Fulbright Program.

“It was a natural process just because of the environment that Coker offers," Melanie says. Because Kenyon knew her well enough to recognize her strengths and interests, she felt confident enough to apply for the program.

Now, Melanie tries to emulate that environment in her own classroom. “When the teachers know your limits and they are pushing you to reach beyond those limits to where all of this great knowledge is stored, then you are actually learning,” she says. “You’re actually getting something done in the classroom.”

Kenyon, of course, was not surprised by Melanie’s success. “Hard-working, intellectual and level-headed, Melanie is in many ways the perfect Fulbright candidate,” he says. “Her experience at Coker was the ideal combination of professional training in a major field and broad education in the liberal arts—an experience that is aimed at life-long intellectual engagement.”

In Andorra, Melanie will teach 14-16 year old students the mechanics of the English language, while providing context through lessons on American history, literature and culture. “I’m super excited about getting to know all of my students and having them teach me about themselves, their culture and their language,” she says.

She also hopes that her experience will help her to “think globally” and better connect with students from all backgrounds in the rest of her teaching career. “Sometimes in America, especially in smaller places like South Carolina, we forget that there are places outside of where we live,” she says. “You have these limits that you set in your mind. But once you reach past those boundaries, you figure out that where there is a will, there is a way.”



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