By Alex Finn-Atkins

“Growing up, I found a sense of fulfillment in public service,” explains Fordham alumnus Erik Angamarca. Before his undergraduate career, Erik had already spent six years tutoring elementary to high school students, teaching at Catechism school, and coaching underprivileged youth in tennis. Given his early passion for helping others–especially those of diverse academic, religious, and economic backgrounds–it is no surprise that Erik completed his bachelor’s in 2014 with a major in international political economy and a minor in Chinese. The Office of Prestigious Fellowships wishes to congratulate Erik on winning a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) for the 2017-2018 academic year in Taiwan.

Prior to applying, Erik had already spent time in both China and South Korea—two excursions that deepened his enthusiasm for East Asian culture. First, as an undergraduate, he studied the Chinese language at Peking University in Beijing. Upon graduation in 2014, Erik was determined to continue his international work as an English literature instructor, “My deep interest in East Asian affairs drove me to teach English in South Korea for 2 years […] With my teaching and cultural experience in China and South Korea, I fell in love with East Asia and I wanted to continue to explore and teach children in the region.” Winning a TA grant to Taiwan has allowed him to impact even more students, “I was driven to immerse myself in Taiwanese culture, build relationships with my students and the Taiwanese people, and leave a good impression of Americans.”

For Erik, a typical day begins with an early stop to a local food stand, where Erik indulges in his favorite breakfast meal: the pork and kimchi Taiwanese style pancake. Next, he treks over to the Xin Xing Elementary School, only a 15-minute bus ride from his apartment.With a range of students from grades 2 to 5, Erik teaches anywhere from 3 to 6 classes each day. Afterwards, he exercises at a local gym with his roommate, and then grabs dinner with friends at a local night market.

Although life as teacher can be tiring, Erik strives to keep his students engaged every single day of the week: “you have to always be happy and energetic and motivating, despite not always feeling your best every day. There are some days that you may feel tired or unhappy, but you must push through and do your best to put a smile on your students’ face.” One of his proudest moments at school has been decorating his classroom: “I put colorful and inspiring quotes on the walls, a Facebook wall poster with a picture section and a weekly status, a star of the month bulletin board, and a vivid ‘Welcome to English Class’ poster.”

For this Fulbright Recipient creating a welcoming learning environment is absolutely crucial; it is Erik’s personal goal to ignite motivation and passion in his students: “English teaching is more than having my students learn grammar and vocabulary words. It’s about opening their eyes to the world.” In addition to teaching duties, Erik also engages in other activities, such as volunteering at the local library near his home and delivering American culture presentations at the Fengjia University in Taichung.

Reflecting upon how supportive Fordham University has been towards his interests in cross-cultural exchange and international diplomacy, Erik explains how our community has “opened the doors to many global opportunities” which have allowed him “to develop key qualities needed when living abroad, such as flexibility, open mindedness, cultural understanding and independence.” During the application processes, he worked closely with advisors at The Office of Prestigious Fellowships, which he describes as an “astounding scholarship and fellowship program office with great resources and helpful mentors who worked hard to help me craft the perfect application to obtain the Gilman scholarship and the Fulbright fellowship.”

Upon returning to the U.S. after Fulbright, Erik hopes not only to share his newfound love for kimchi pancakes with other Americans, but also to work towards becoming a public diplomacy officer for the Foreign Service: “An ETA grant is more than a short-term project for me. It is the foundation that will allow me to promote cross-cultural understanding and thus build a strong relationship between the people of America and East Asia.”