Just a few weeks before they graduated from The University of Tulsa, Luke Bertaux (BSBA ’22) and Heath Fusco (BA ’22) were elated to learn the Fulbright U.S. Student Program had selected them to experience life overseas as English teaching assistants.
Eastward to Spain
Hailing from Keller, Texas, Luke Bertaux completed a major in computer information systems and a minor in cyber security. Beginning in September, Bertaux will work as an English teaching assistant at the University of Málaga, located in southern Spain. In this role, he will spend 9 months helping the university’s teaching staff with degree programs that are taught in English, conduct academic writing workshops and tutor students.
“I am very happy to be placed at the university level for my Fulbright award because I will have the opportunity to help others that are around the same age as me,” said Bertaux. This will be his first time in Europe, and he is looking forward to seeing a new part of the world and “really excited” to improve his Spanish speaking skills: “I’ve never really used Spanish outside of the classroom, and I think that spending a year abroad will really help advance my fluency, which is something I’ve desired since I began studying the language in the 8th grade.”
One of many people who is certain Bertaux will succeed in this regard is Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature Bruce Dean Willis: “Luke’s enthusiasm for the language, his informed curiosity and his natural linguistic talent enhanced by his time abroad, have led him to be active in Spanish- and Latin American-focused student activities on campus that will no doubt prove invaluable as a Fulbright teacher of English in Spain.”
Bertaux credits several individuals and programs at TU for helping him to prepare and apply for this award. As a peer tutor, for instance, he encountered and worked through situations likely to arise in Málaga, while taking part in Global Scholars “helped me think critically about international challenges, which, in turn, motivated me to apply for the Fulbright. I also wove in to my application some of what I had learned in the Global Scholars program.” Meantime, he believes his computer science courses at TU have given him knowledge that will be essential when working with STEM students in Spain.
On the personal level, Denise Dutton, director of TU’s Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships, was immensely helpful to Bertaux. “The application is very long and there is a lot of waiting as you advance to each new stage,” he noted, “but Dr. Dutton helped alleviate my stress and provide great guidance.”
Another member of the university’s staff with whom Bertaux regularly interacted was Tami Barrett, a student success coach. “Luke is the kind of person you want in a helping role,” commented Barrett. “Big-hearted and humble, he’s a promoter of kindness on all fronts and demonstrates true strength of character. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow and flourish in his time as a student and student-worker at TU. Luke is destined to shine brightly in his upcoming Fulbright experience in Spain!”
Southward to Paraguay
The small city of Nixa in southwestern Missouri – Fusco’s hometown — is a long way from the Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, which is where he will move to in February 2023 to being work as Fulbright English teaching assistant. While there, Fusco will help college-aged students learn English and organize cross-cultural community events designed to share U.S. culture with residents in his host country.
One of the aspects of life in Paraguay that energizes Fusco most is the fact that he will be immersed in a place that relatively few Americans travel to or even know much about. “I hope to learn as much as I can about Paraguayan culture,” said Fusco, “and that includes by taking classes in Guaraní, the country’s major Indigenous language.” While overseas, Fusco also plans to develop a community-sourced cookbook comprising Paraguayan and American recipes: “Food is a second passion of mine, and I’m hopeful this cookbook will enable communities in Paraguay and the U.S. to learn more about each other through food.”
But even before he steps onto the jetway and heads south, Fusco already knows a great deal about the country – and one of its two main tongues — he is about to call home. “Heath has had an illustrious run as a Spanish major,” commented Dean Willis, “producing top-notch written work with rigorous research as well as being one of the most active and insightful participants in class — all of this in flawless Spanish. He has made a point of researching and writing about Paraguay in his courses, to the extent that he will arrive for his Fulbright period with extensive background knowledge of the country.”
Not unlike Bertaux, Fusco credits his time with Global Scholars as formative. “Since day one, that program has kept me thinking about issues through a global lens, and there’s no way I would have won a Fulbright without it.” In addition, being able to travel abroad to Panama and Spain taught him, Fusco notes, the cross-cultural and language skills he will rely on in South America.
On the academic side of the house, Fusco underscores the preparation he received as a student of political science and Spanish. “Those departments and the courses I took through them encouraged me to be culturally sensitive, academically curious and conscious of social justice,” he remarked. According to Fusco, “all my professors – especially Jeffrey Hockett, Ryan Saylor, Denise Dutton, Lara Foley and Bruce Dean Willis – graciously invested their time, energy and confidence in me, and got me where I am today.”
For his part, Professor of Political Science Jeffrey Hockett is pleased to return the compliment, celebrating Fusco and his achievement: “Heath is more than deserving of the Fulbright grant that he has been awarded, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Although I regret that I will no longer benefit from his contributions in my classes – indeed, Heath is among the best students that I have taught in my 35 years at TU – I look forward to learning about his experiences and contributions in Paraguay, and to following what will surely be an amazing career.”
If you are interested in applying for a Fulbright or other major awards, TU’s Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships is ready to get you on your way!