Congratulations to Gabrielle Jackson, Community Health Senior and Winner of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant

Gabrielle Jackson in front of a crowded plaza

Gabrielle Jackson was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant, widely recognized as one of the most prestigious international exchange programs, with only 8,000 grants awards each year.

CHHS senior Gabrielle Jackson is set to graduate this spring with a bachelor’s in community health, a minor in Spanish and exciting plans of international community engagement, and a bright future career in public health.

Jackson left her hometown in New Jersey to begin her educational career at Mason in 2016. “Mason had the programs I was interested in, and I loved how close it was to D.C., one of my favorite cities,” says Jackson. “After visiting campus, Mason’s diversity, character and overall friendliness really stood out to me. I then realized I was comparing all my other options to Mason, so it ended up being my first choice.”

With dreams of travel and the desire to help others in her future, the Fulbright scholarship was on Jackson’s radar prior to her time at Mason. “During freshman year I was enrolled in a college success 101 course that asked us to write down three goals to strive for during our college career,” she remembers. “Right then I decided I wanted to write well, think critically, and win a Fulbright.”

After being asked if she learned any important lessons from her time at Mason, Jackson replied, “My professors encouraged me to apply for a Boren fellowship in Brazil. I was very hesitant because it wasn’t a part of my plan. I wanted to go to Colombia or Argentina where they spoke Spanish, why would I go to Brazil? After going to my family for advice, my dad told me, there was nothing to lose by just applying. I realized it was okay to pursue something outside of my plan, so I took the chance and applied.”

Jackson was accepted by the program and traveled to Brazil that summer. “The best advice I would give to future Mason students is not to shut yourself out of opportunities just because you didn’t imagine them for yourself.”

When the time came to apply to the Fulbright scholarship, Jackson received great support from her professors who helped write recommendation letters.

Fulbright typically awards scholarships for the opportunity to be an English teaching assistant (ETA) or conduct research. Jackson chose to be an ETA in Colombia based on her background in Spanish, past teaching experience at Mason assisting in math, and her love for Latino culture.

When she arrives in Colombia, Jackson will be placed in one of their universities to assist in teaching English and math, as well as providing additional support to professionals who wish to improve their English. She will spend about 30 hours a week inside the classroom and the other 10 hours conducting a community engagement project outside the classroom.

Jackson chose Colombia because she used to watch music videos from Afro-Latino communities on the pacific coast of Colombia and remember feeling completely enthralled by their rich and diverse culture. After studying abroad in Spain and experiencing Brazil, she is excited to return to South America and completely immerse herself in their language and everyday life.

Not only does Fulbright provide students with a greater world view but is an integral part of United States diplomacy with other nations. Jackson added that the program is very diversifying, allowing other nations to see the different faces of the United States, and variations of unique backgrounds. International programs like Fulbright share different identities of people who make up the U.S. with the rest of the world.  

In light of COVID-19, all Fulbright programs have been delayed and will be reassessed in January 2021. The length of the program will likely be shorter than 10 months, its original duration. Jackson recounted “I was nervous prior to COVID-19 that 10 months would be too long, but now that will not be the case. Right now, health is a primary concern, but it is too soon to predict what will happen or what life will be like in a year.”

When asked what she hopes to accomplish after eventually completing her journey overseas and in a future career, Jackson said, “I always wanted to help others, but now I have a better idea of how I can do that. I believe in providing people with the right resources and encouraging them to take charge of their own lives. It’s not about empowering people, because they already have the power.”

Jackson hopes her time in Colombia will enhance her worldview by expanding her appreciation for people and the strengths they bring no matter where they come from. From a practical standpoint, Jackson will further her language ability in Spanish which will benefit her in future possible careers such as the non-profit sector, social service, or the federal government. 

After returning from Colombia, Jackson plans to work for the federal government.