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Florida State University


Matthew Phipps, a 2008 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, graduates this summer with a double major in Creative Writing and Spanish.

"Writing is difficult," he says, "but I definitely feel happiest when I'm writing, even though it also seems like the most draining process in the world. On productive days it can be very satisfying. It's not the only way I can fully express myself—it's indirect and artificial—but sometimes it seems like the most effective way."

And why a second major in Spanish? Matt says, "Living in Florida, I took Spanish classes from the first grade on, but I wasn't passionate about the language until I felt more confident." In the summer of 2005, he spent three months in Valencia, Spain through FSU's International Programs. "Immersed in that culture, Spanish became real. There were beautiful places to go and interesting people to meet, which motivated me to work toward fluency."

Upon returning from Valencia, Matt signed up to teach intermediate English to Hispanic migrants through the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium in Quincy, Florida. The following summer, through Amigos de las Américas, he taught technology and digital photography to the youth of Oaxaca, Mexico. He says, "Through these contacts, my interest shifted. Now my main motivation for gaining fluency is a fascination with Latin American cultures and peoples."

Matt feels tremendous gratitude to professors in both departments. "Without dedicated, kind, encouraging Spanish professors like Jose Gomariz, Juan Galeano, Carolina Gonzalez, and Enrique Alvarez, I never would have become so devoted to the language or gotten as many travel opportunities as I have. Without challenging, intelligent, supportive English professors like Andrew Epstein, Daniel Vitkus, Julianna Baggott, and David Vann, I never would have attained the level of confidence I have now—in writing, in thought, and in life. They truly changed my life—I can't remember how ignorant and immature I was before I walked into their classrooms."

In March, Matt travels to Chile for a nine-month stint "teaching and tutoring at a Chilean university." He also hopes to conduct research on the roots, influences, and presence in contemporary Chilean music of the Andean musical genre, cueca. Of the Fulbright, Matt admits, "I'm surprised I could win such a prestigious award. I was looking for a way to live and work outside of the country for a while, and of the Latin American countries offering Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships, Chile was the most appealing."

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