Maya Chesley, '15, from Chesapeake, Virginia, was awarded a 2016 Fulbright Scholarship. At VCU, she received bachelor's degrees in biology and Spanish and was involved in the community as a participant with the student organization VERDE, which helps Latino communities in Richmond in a sustainable way. She was also the first Service-Learning Teaching Assistant placed with an international course.
For her Fulbright studies, Chesley will travel to Panama to teach English and will work on a journal to chronicle the relationship between city residents and nature. Chesley's Fulbright focus ties into her experiences while she was a student at VCU.
As a student, Chesley took two service-learning courses in Córdoba, Spain with Anita Nadal, assistant professor of Spanish in the School of World Studies. The courses, "Hispanic Immigrants in the U.S." and "Immigration in Spain," allowed Chesley to to work with Gypsies and African immigrant populations in local hospitals and community farms. The courses focus on teaching sustainable energy, food and waste management skills to immigrants from the developing world who are living in the developed world.
After her own service-learning experiences, Chesley became a teaching assistant for Nadal's international courses.
"I gained a lot from my first experience in Córdoba," she said. "My Spanish really improved, and I wanted to help other students see that same improvement in their speaking skills. I felt it was important to help other students have a great experience learning about Spanish culture and volunteering, especially in a foreign country."
After returning, Chesley began teaching English as a second language with the Bridge Center. She also became involved with VERDE, helping plant a community garden and set up chicken coops in communities near Richmond.
"My experience as an SLTA was crucial to my Fulbright application," Chesley said. "I learned how to become better integrated in a different community and to address the cultural needs of a group, in addition to gaining a strong foundation in Spanish language, leading large groups, being comfortable in a foreign country and being serious about the work that I do."