Higher ed and hockey will be focus of Fulbright in Finland for new grad Abigail Smiles

Fulbright grantee and College of Education
2022 grad Abigail Smiles

One of the best ways for a scholar to develop their skills for use at home is to study in an environment foreign to them, and new grad Abigail Smiles will put that theory into practice this fall attending grad school in Finland as a Fulbright grantee.

Smiles will pursue a master’s degree in teaching, learning and media education at Tampere University. Her award, the Fulbright-Tampere University Graduate Award, includes a full tuition scholarship, monthly stipend and travel funds. Her second year of tuition also will be covered as long as she continues to meet academic standards.

“I always wanted to be a teacher growing up, I had a lot that had a positive impact on me, so I figured it would be something I’d want to do for the rest of my life as well,” she says. “I picked social studies specifically because I want students to go into the world with the skills they need to play a part. This means knowing how the government works so they know what role they can have. It’s also important to just learn history and about the past, what should be repeated and what shouldn’t.”

Smiles received help with her Fulbright application by Professor Kevin Deegan-Krause in the Office of Fellowships, which is where she learned of the award. But, the decision to go after the Finland Fulbright was her own.

“I picked Finland for grad school because they have one of the best education systems in the world,” she says. “They don’t have standardized testing at all; the grading is entirely up to the teachers. Once you get up to the high school levels they do have a few tests.

"Repping Wayne State University in Tromsø, Norway, during my Fulbright in Finland!" 

“They’re some of the happiest people in the world, so I (want to) learn about their views on education, learn about what makes people there so happy and then bring those ideas back to America and merge our ideas of education. That’s what I’m interested in learning about and how to do it.

“I’m a big hockey fan and Tampere is known for its hockey, so I’m really excited to see games there,” Smiles says. “I’m also excited to skate on natural ice for the first time. It’ll be nice to live in a city that’s connected to nature. It’s perfect for me.”

After she returns from Finland, Smiles plans to teach for a few years before either going into another field in education or getting a Ph.D in education and becoming a professor.

“Wayne State has really helped me with my career goals. In my student teaching I’m using so many of the skills that I picked up there, from my teaching methods classes, from history and especially from my Michigan politics classes. The classes meant to prepare me for teaching have really done their job. And the Honors College has really taught me how to present myself well.”

Smiles says she recommends anyone with even a remote interest in studying abroad take advantage of the opportunities and help provided by Wayne State University.

“Find somewhere that you’re passionate about going, have a real reason you want to study somewhere, and ultimately just go for it,” she says. “I didn’t think I was going to get it. Take in all the advice you can get from the Fellowships office, Fulbright advisors and anyone else you can get advice from. It’ll be well worth your time.”

By Jacob Stocking, OIP communications associate

The Office of Fellowships is part of the Office of International Programs, which leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.

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