Simpson alumna now Fulbright Scholar

Simpson alumna now Fulbright Scholar

by Kate Hayden & Jessalyn Holdcraft


One Simpson grad traded cornfields for castles two weeks ago.

Simpson alumna, 2011, and now fulbright scholar Robin Whitford flew to Hungary to begin instructing for nine months.

“This is a lot of firsts for me,” Whitford said. “First non-summer, non-school-related job. First time living alone. First time away for this long. First time in Hungary. First time teaching on my own, not to mention teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) students.”

The Fulbright Program is an international exchange program operated by the U.S. government. Fulbright participants are chosen for their academic success and leadership skills and are given the opportunity to study abroad and teach or research in their area of expertise. The program hopes to increase understanding between U.S. citizens and people of other countries.

As a Fulbright scholar Whitford will spend her time teaching English language classes at the University of Debrecen in Debrecen, Hungary.

“Everyone has been telling me what an awesome honor it is to be a Fulbrighter, but that hasn’t seemed to sink in yet,” Whitford said. “I just feel lucky to be in Hungary doing things I love and meeting amazing people.”

Teaching in Hungary is not Whitford’s first experience out of the country. She participated in a semester abroad trip to Europe with Simpson College in 2009.

“I think I was brave enough to apply because I’d been well prepared by having went to London for a semester, having had the chance to be a teaching assistant for some of my professors, and having worked with English and ESL speakers as a writing tutor,” Whitford said.

Faculty members agree that the Fulbright Program was a fit for Whitford.

“Robin was a superb student from day one,” said David Wolf, associate professor of English and chair of the department of English. “She was seriously engaged in the critical study of literature, committed to issues of social justice and involved creatively as an editor of and contributor to Sequel.”

She applied for the Fulbright Program her senior year at Simpson. Every year approximately 7500 students from 155 countries are accepted in to the program.

“I started the process about a month before the application was due, and I recommend starting earlier,” Whitford said. “I started applying not knowing a lot about the program, but I knew it included traveling and studying and doing new things with new people-all things I love.”

Loving to travel does not erase longing for parts of her life stateside.

“I do miss my family and friends, but I do not miss the humidity,” Whitford said. “It’s hard to be away from them sometimes, but we keep in touch and there is so much to keep me busy and entertained here.”

Hungary is no Iowa, but Simpson’s latest Fulbright scholar did not apply for a country based on the weather.

“I knew that Fulbright was an extremely competitive program, so I wanted to apply somewhere I might have a better chance,” Whitford said. “Unlike some other countries, knowing the language was not a requirement. I really knew nothing about the country, its language, its people, its culture, or its history. So it was part strategic, part coincidental.”

Whitford makes keeping up with her Hungarian experience easy. She started a blog titled “Feelin’ Hungary?” to chronicle her time as a Fulbright scholar. It can be found at

With the next nine months already mapped out, Whitford has an idea of where she wants her future to take her next.

“I eventually want to go to graduate school to study literature so I can teach undergraduates,” Whitford said. “But who knows? Maybe I’ll fall in love with ESL teaching and want to do this. And there’s always the opportunity to apply to Fulbright again.”