Next Stop: Thailand
By Kate Griffin
Special to GoHolyCross.com
While many seniors are busy applying to jobs and graduate school, senior Samantha Speroni of the women's track and field team knows how she will be spending the next year. Speroni received a Fulbright Scholarship to go to Thailand.
“I was honestly really surprised but super excited when I got the Fulbright,” explained Speroni. “I was sitting at a table in the Science complex when I found out. It was funny because different countries find out at different times so everyone was hearing back and I hadn't heard back so immediately I thought, oh no I didn't get it. I got an email and I was so excited and nervous I was shaking.”
The Fulbright Program is a prestigious, merit-based scholarship awarded to Americans for the international exchange of students. United States senator J. William Fulbright founded the Fulbright Program in 1946.
Speroni, a native of Redondo Beach, Calif., decided to apply for a Fulbright because she knew she wanted to do a year of service abroad. The Fulbright Program is unique because it is only a year long program, where as most similar international programs are two years or more. “I have always had an interest in traveling, it has been a big part of my life,” said Speroni. “I really liked the Fulbright Program because it was about education. Education is a common thread that brings a lot of people together, between different cultures. And that is the whole purpose of the Fulbright program, to bring people together across cultures.”
Thailand was always a place Speroni wanted to return. She traveled to Thailand the summer before her senior year of high school and worked on an elephant conservation for two weeks. “It was awesome, the people were so friendly and you got a really welcoming vibe when you went there,” explained Speroni. “That is why I decided to apply to Thailand with the help and encouragement of the Graduate Studies office.”
While in Thailand, Speroni will be teaching English to primary or secondary school students in a rural area. “In Thailand the schooling is mostly strict memorization, whereas in the United States the education system is about making connections,” said Speroni. “I want to try to find a way to blend the two without imposing our western values. But also trying to find a way to create awareness, that there are different ways to educate students.”
Speroni competes in the pole vault on the women's track and field team. She has been a part of the team since her freshman year and is currently one of the captains. Being a member of the track team has been an important piece of Speroni's identity at Holy Cross. “Being a student-athlete has definitely taught me a lot about fully committing myself to two different things, which is a tough thing to learn how to do,” said Speroni. “I can't just put in a little bit of time to both, I really have to totally devote myself to these two different things. That has taught me a lot about time management and I have learned how to invest myself in multiple facets.”
Speroni is a 360 leader in the Holy Cross Leadership Academy and that has taught Speroni many skills that she will take to Thailand. “You might think about certain skills but not in a critical way, so in the leadership academy, we are learning how to apply skills and think about specific situations,” explained Speroni. “For example as a captain of the track team, I may have to speak to a teammate, or be an encourager, or set an example and I think all of these things are important. Though I have not had any formal teaching experience, I will be able to take these skills to Thailand and that's really all the experience I have going into it.”
In addition to Speroni's involvement as a captain of the track team, she also finds time to work in a neuroscience research lab in the psychology department. She has spent two summers at Holy Cross doing extensive research for the lab.
Service has always been an important component of Speroni's life. “My experience going to Thailand in high school was really influential in me wanting to go to Asia,” said Speroni. “Asia is very different from going to Europe or South America. This past summer I was in Honduras for a week for a medical mission trip. That trip also had a big influence, to be totally immersed. Even though it was only a week, I totally had to put myself outside of my comfort zone and I loved that experience.” After her year in Thailand, Speroni hopes to apply to medical school.
As Speroni embarks on this new journey, we wish her the best of luck in Thailand.