Celeste Banks ('14C)
Award: Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship - Taiwan
Award supported: One-year English teaching placement in Taiwan
Undergraduate major(s): African Studies; Chinese Studies
Currently: Employed as a Risk Analyst for Guy Carpenter in Seattle, and planning to pursue a MBA
While at Emory, Celeste was active in Kappa Alpha Theta, Unity Month, Emory Model UN, Sexual Assault Peer Advocates, Emory Cross Country, Girls on the Run, and Readers Beyond Borders, and served as a teaching assistant for Economic Development in Africa and as an Orientation Leader. She was also a recipient of the Megan E. Taylor Scholarship.
Q: What experiences at Emory prepared you for the Fulbright?
A: My first year I had a life threatening medical issue, and in order to survive and thrive at Emory I had to overcome a lot. That sort of “do or die” mentality helped while I was starting my Fulbright year. Regardless of whether one has a crisis experience, Emory does a lot to prepare students for the Fulbright. At Emory, students will be challenged and being able to overcome that challenge helps prepare students to thrive abroad. While I was at Emory, I learned to use all of my resources, to seek help when I need it, and to engage in challenging opportunities that stretch my world view. I also benefited from talking with Fulbright scholars on faculty at Emory.
Q: What memorable or interesting things happened during your Fulbright experience?
A: My Fulbright experience was incredible. There were moments of real frustration, as well as moments of delight and awe. The Taiwanese people are overwhelmingly kind and made the transition doable.
A lot of my most memorable moments involve taking advantage of Taiwan’s rich and varied geography: camping on beaches, snorkeling with sea turtles, hiking to waterfalls and along mountain trails.
I was surprised at what I struggled with. In general, I am very good at communication, but communication in Taiwan is indirect and I realized quickly it was an area I would need to pay even more attention to. When I first moved to Taiwan, I was delighted when accurate Chinese would come out of my mouth at the right moment in conversation, but I was also surprised (and a bit dismayed) at how much Chinese I still didn’t know and needed to learn.
There were a million moments of discovery and adventure during my time in Taiwan. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to pick up scooting, and how much I enjoyed it as a form of transportation. I kept track of my travels and what I learned about Taiwanese culture on my blog “From Kansas to Taiwan".
Q: How did the Fulbright experience impact your academic/ career path?
A: The interesting thing about having Fulbright on your résumé is that it gives you immediate “street cred.” It is recognized in almost any academic circle and is therefore an advantage in applying for jobs and graduate school.
Q: What advice would you give current Fulbright applicants?
A: Make sure you clearly explain why you are applying. It’s important that the “why” is not just for your résumé, but because you authentically want to experience another culture. The way Emory prepares people through the application and interview process does a really good job of making sure applicants have a solid “why.” Mine was that I wanted to have the opportunity to live abroad, live a life of adventure, and learn more Chinese. Don’t be afraid to reach out to previous recipients if you have questions.