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Fulbright Student Program offers new grad award and opportunity in Poland

September 29, 2015

A Skype interview for the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant has given new grad Maria Mellis some ideas for global interactions in her classroom.

“My students were reading “Night” by Eli Wiesel and it was great to tell them I would be in Poland where the concentration camps he writes about were located,” says Mellis, who was teaching high school English in Warren when she received news of the award.

As a 2015-16 Fulbright grant recipient, Mellis will teach English to college students in Poland this fall.  The Fulbright program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with the intent of nurturing mutual understanding between nations while supporting the recipients’ academic goals. 

The Fulbright Student grant is available to those who have completed their undergraduate education.  Applications for the 2016-17 student competition close Oct. 13.

Mellis is among more than 1,800 American students, artists and young professionals who are offered Fulbright grants each year in research and teaching. As a teaching assistant, Mellis receives a stipend that will cover a place to live and expenses. Mellis, who graduated May 7 with a bachelor’s in secondary education with honors, is thrilled with the award, calling it the fulfillment of her longtime desire to travel abroad.

“I have considered the various study abroad programs Wayne State offers, but my course load always conflicted with them,” says Mellis, whose busy schedule as student, weekend church musician and coordinator of a bilingual acting class for Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, almost derailed her plans to submit an application “The due date for the Fulbright application coincided with the fall semester of my senior year, when I was taking 22 credits and had several papers due.”

Inspired by a friend and former Fulbright recipient who was a teaching assistant in Poland, Mellis says, she set her sights on completing a process she describes as “detailed and lengthy - but so worthwhile,” with assistance from Kelli Dixon, director of WSU’s Study Abroad and Global Programs.

The application involves multiple components, including a grant proposal and a personal statement of introduction for Fulbright commissioners. In hopes of setting herself apart from other applicants, Mellis wrote a poem instead of an essay for her personal statement.  The Skype interview later followed with officials.

A Bloomfield Hills native, Mellis says she is only a “wee bit” Polish, but has developed an affection for the Eastern European nation and its culture through her friends and her faith, which has been nurtured through her involvement at Wayne State’s Newman Catholic Center.

Mellis has great admiration for St. John Paul II, who was the first Polish-born pope of the Catholic Church, which plays an important religious, cultural and political role in Poland.

Her nine-month Fulbright award concludes one month before World Youth Day (WYD) commences in Krakow, for the 14th global gathering of young adult Catholics.  Mellis plans to extend her stay in Poland to attend WYD with students from the Newman Center.

Mellis plans to teach when she returns to the United States, confident that the experiences in Poland will enhance not only her skills but the learning environment for her students.