Cruz awarded Fulbright to Spain

Stefany Cruz could hardly wait for the results of her Fulbright application.

When the email popped into her inbox, she quickly opened it.  

Photo of Stefany Cruz
Stefany Cruz

“The way Fulbright does it is they email you saying to check your status, so as I was going to my Fulbright account my heart was racing, but once I read the first line and I saw the word ‘congratulations,’ I was overcome with emotion,” she said. “I was so proud of my accomplishment that I couldn’t hold back the tears.”

She’s headed to Spain as part of the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program. According to the Fulbright website, ETAs help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. 

This kinesiology major knows she’s not the only one who is proud of her accomplishment. 

“Being a first-generation student has impacted my college experience and while applying for this Fulbright, it made me want the opportunity even more,” she said. “These experiences are not only something I am proud to have achieved but I know my family is even prouder.” 

Cruz will leave her home in Chicago, Illinois, in January of 2021 and will stay abroad for about six months, which is shorter than usual due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I will be teaching English to students ranging from elementary to high school level,” Cruz said. “I will be able to incorporate my kinesiology background by coordinating different physical activities.”

Cruz is looking forward to exploring the Spanish culture and networking with other Fulbright grantees and alumni. She says the opportunities she took advantage of at Cornell, especially one particular class, helped prepare her for what lies ahead.

“I want to thank Jill Heinrich,” she said. “It was because of her class in Belize that I gained the confidence and experience in teaching that I needed to obtain this Fulbright to Spain. Traveling to Belize for a block helped me experience a different culture and opened my eyes to pursue this experience.”

She’s also grateful to Laura Farmer who encouraged her to apply for this grant.

After Cruz’s trip to Spain, she plans to get a master’s degree in health care administration. As she prepares for her first-ever trip to Europe, she wants others to put their fears of applying for a Fulbright behind them. 

“Anyone can do this and succeed,” Cruz said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, how much money you have, if you’re a first generation or not; if you are willing to put in the work then you will succeed. No story is too big or too small, if you’re genuine and passionate that is what they are looking for.”

Cruz and her classmate, Zoe Randall, bring the total number of Fulbrights awarded to Cornell graduates in the past 15 years to 20.

The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and was established in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries, through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills.