Two of Case Western Reserve University’s Class of 2019 graduates will gain international experiences in the coming months as recipients of Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants.
Jasmin Bhangu, who majored in biology and business management, received an English Teaching Assistant Grant in Poland, while Anna Sklenar, who majored in international studies and mechanical engineering, earned an Open Study/Research grant in Russia.
Additionally, Jeffrey Antoine (CWR ’18) was among those selected for an English Teaching Assistant Grant in Mexico this year.
Sponsored by the U.S. government, the Fulbright program gives scholars an opportunity to conduct research, teach and study in approximately 140 countries.
During high school and as an undergraduate, Jasmin Bhangu had the opportunity to travel abroad several times, with stops in Costa Rica, Peru, Italy, Germany and England. But each of those trips lasted only three weeks at most, and Bhangu didn’t feel they gave her the chance to fully immerse herself in the culture.
When she read about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program English Teaching Assistant Grants on the Case Western Reserve University website, she realized it would offer her the perfect opportunity to get a more well-rounded experience abroad.
Now, starting in the fall, she’ll do that in Poland after being selected for an English Teaching Assistant Grant. Bhangu’s host institution will be Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz, where she will work for nine months.
“It connected with my future goals too because, as a physician, teaching and communication are extremely important. This would definitely help me develop those skills and also be able to bring the knowledge I learn back to the U.S.,” said Bhangu, who majored in biology and business management on the pre-med track.
Additionally, the Fulbright program requires a community engagement project, which Bhangu plans to connect directly to her future career.
Bhangu will reach out to health clinics to find work opportunities that will give her a firsthand look at the Polish health care system, giving her the chance to compare and contrast it to the United States.
Here in Cleveland, Bhangu, who will apply to medical schools after her grant ends, volunteered and conducted research in hospital settings. At University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Bhangu was a child-life activities volunteer on the gastroenterology floor. In that role, she kept patients—and often their siblings—company with activities such as arts and crafts and watching movies.
Also at University Hospitals, Bhangu worked with researchers in the emergency department for several years to get insight into whether patients prefer discharge instructions in video or paper format. The results of their work were recently accepted for publication.
And through the Chester Summer Scholars Program in the MetroHealth System, Bhangu contributed to research in the trauma surgery department looking at end-of-life decisions and comfort care. Bhangu presented at two conferences based on her work at MetroHealth, and the researchers’ work also has been submitted for publication.
“I had a lot of experiences in undergrad that I really enjoyed,” she said.
Now, she’s looking forward to what the next year will hold.
After high school, Anna Sklenar took a gap year to explore her interest in Russia and develop her language skills. The time abroad was her second time in the country after participating in a six-week state department-funded program while in high school.
During her year in Russia before beginning college at Case Western Reserve University in 2014, she seriously reconsidered her plans of studying engineering. Maybe, she thought, international studies would be a better fit.
Ultimately, she decided to do both. But after an internship at local manufacturing company Jergens Inc. and a co-op at design and engineering consulting firm Nottingham Spirk, Sklenar felt that most of her college experiences related directly to her mechanical engineering studies.
The Fulbright program presented an opportunity to further develop her international interests. So in the fall, Sklenar will return to Russia as part of a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Open Study/Research Grant.
There, Sklenar will continue work she conducted for her capstone project at Case Western Reserve, involving interviews with people in Ekaterinburg, Russia, to examine the link between nostalgia for the Soviet Union and populism in Russia today.
Sklenar’s previous conversations with her host families and others in Russia inspired the topic.
“Over tea, they would tell me stories about their lives growing up in the Soviet Union, or how it has changed since the collapse,” she said. “For me, it was fascinating to hear these personal accounts because I had learned so little about this period of history in school. Their personal accounts allowed me to understand what had happened from their perspective.”
In completing research on the topic, Sklenar hopes to be able to more broadly share Russians’ perspectives and the impact they have on global politics.
In addition to her travels in Russia, Sklenar spent time in Kazakhstan in 2016 after winning a David L. Boren Scholarship, administered by the National Security Education Program.
After the program is complete, Sklenar hopes to find a job that can draw upon both of her interests.
“Majoring in both disciplines, along with the extensive international experience that I’ve been able to get before and during college, gives me the best show possible at attaining my goal,” she said.