First-generation student awarded prestigious Fulbright

Annabelle Fortine will live and teach in Bulgaria for 10 months

| Author: Maureen Harke | Media Contact: Maureen Harke

A student with long blonde hair smiles for the camera while standing in front of the CMU seal.
Annabelle Fortine

Annabelle Fortine, a Central Michigan University senior from Honor, Michigan, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant to teach English as a second language in Bulgaria.

Fortine, who is majoring in elementary education with focus on integrated science and reading, was inspired to apply for a Fulbright award after serving as a summer migrant education teacher for Northwest Education Services in Michigan.

“I enjoy the challenge and rewards of teaching English language learners, and I especially love those ‘lightbulb’ moments when a student finally understands information in a new language,” she said.  

During her Fulbright grant, Fortine is looking forward to learning about Bulgarian culture and the education system.

“I am hoping to find that no matter where you are, children want to learn,” she said. “I also hope to learn from my students in the process.”

Upon returning to the U.S., Fortine plans to teach at an elementary school where a high percentage of the students are English language learners. Ultimately, she would like to pursue a graduate degree in English as a second language.

“I feel that I can have the greatest impact by training new teachers how to best meet the needs of students whose first language is not English,” she said.

Fortine worked with Maureen Harke, director of the CMU National Scholarship Program, to complete the application process. Approximately 2,000 U.S. students, artists and young professionals receive Fulbright U.S. Student Grants annually to pursue graduate study, conduct research and teach English abroad in more than 140 countries worldwide. Students are selected based on their academic and professional record, host country-specific preferences, cultural competency, and the applicant’s potential to further the Fulbright goal of building mutual understanding between people of the U.S. and other countries. 

Fortine will live and teach in Bulgaria for 10 months, but she is not a stranger to being in unfamiliar settings. She is the first in her family to go to college.

“As a first-generation college student, I am proof that education and determination can help you thrive. When I began my first year at CMU, I quickly realized that universities have their own culture, and I was unfamiliar with how that culture worked,” she said.

“I asked questions, I made mistakes, but most of all, I grew in confidence with each semester. I now find fulfillment in helping others successfully navigate unfamiliar situations. So, it is not surprising that I am studying to be a teacher.”

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