Fulbright grad students share a piece of Saint Michael’s

February 22, 2024
Cat Cutillo
Social Media and Community Content Specialist

Three international graduate students are currently on Saint Michael’s College campus through prestigious Fulbright scholarships as part of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program. Afnan Allous, from Iraq, is earning her Master’s in Clinical Counseling Psychology and will graduate from Saint Michael’s this spring. Bernadette Samake, from Mali, and Chayma Bouzenag, from Algeria, are both earning their Master’s in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (MATESOL) and both will graduate in 2025.

“These students share with us amazing global perspective as ambassadors of their countries, while simultaneously learning about the United States,” said Rosemary Yargici , Director of International Student and Scholar Services. “Supporting these programs is a fundamental part of the internationalization efforts of The Center for Global Engagement. We intentionally want to continue building strong connections and friendships with other people and nations, transforming our future global leaders to do well and good, and influence a more peaceful world.”

Yargici added that that the current Fulbright graduate students on Saint Michael’s campus will ultimately “go back to their countries and share a piece of us.”

Find out more about each of the Fulbright scholars at Saint Michael’s below.

Afnan Allous

Afnan Allous on Saint Michael’s campus. (Courtesy)

Afnan Allous will graduate with a Master’s in Clinical Counseling Psychology in May. She came to Vermont in September 2022 from Iraq. Allous previously worked in administrative positions related to mental health.

“I gained a lot of insight about things that I didn’t know about myself as a person,” Allous said about her studies at Saint Michael’s. “The support that I got from the professors was amazing. They were all great and very supportive.”

She is currently applying to jobs in Iraq that support mental health.

“We don’t have an association that is dedicated to mental health, so that’s challenging for me,” she said. “But I’m very hopeful for the future and I would like to be part of the change for sure.”

The Fulbright program has provided enrichment seminars where Allous has met Fulbrighters from around the globe, including Fulbrighters who are also from Iraq and studying in different states across the U.S. She said the program also opened the opportunity to explore the U.S. Allous has taken trips to see several of her Fulbright friends and traveled to places like New York City, New Hampshire, Michigan, Arizona, California, and Georgia. With one Fulbright friend, she went on a road trip from South Carolina to Florida.

For the Master’s Degree, she’s participated in two internships. Last year, she worked for an agency supporting the unhoused community by working with the criminal justice system. The agency provided social services and support for those who are on probation or getting out of prison.

Afnan Allous traveling (left), Afnan Allous with other Fulbrighters at an enrichment seminar (right) (Courtesy photos)

“I’m really interested in working with different groups…and seeing how that adds to my experience and knowledge,” she said.

This year, she’s working at Essex Pediatrics within its mental health department providing support to children and adolescents.

“I like being challenged because I know I’m learning if I’m being challenged,” Allous said. “I have—let me tell you— been challenged so much in this program, especially being a non-native speaker in a clinical psych program. But I have also learned so much and I’m grateful.”

Bernadette Samake

Bernadette Samake is pursuing a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (MATESOL) at Saint Michael’s. Samake hails from Mali, West Africa. She taught English as a foreign language to high school students back home.

Bernadette Samake at Saint Michael’s (Photo by Cat Cutillo)

“I really like the rapport that exists between teachers and students here,” Samake said. “We don’t have that back home. It helps having a dynamic teaching and learning environment.”

Samake said that in Mali, there is a boundary between teachers and students.

“It’s almost close to fear,” she said. “It’s really different. Here, there is this closeness. You can ask questions. You can feel free to react to anything that might jump into your mind. Back home it’s very strict.”

She plans to take the communicative approach she’s learned at Saint Michael’s and implement that into her teaching in Mali. She explained that the communicative approach helps students to learn the language and be able to communicate with the language in real life.

Samake said the one of the most striking differences she’s encountered in Vermont has been the extreme difference in weather from her homeland.

“I was really scared coming to a very cold place because I’m from a very hot place,” she said. “Surprisingly, it’s not like I was thinking. I’m able to adjust.”

Bernadette Samake at Saint Michael’s (Photo by Cat Cutillo)

For Samake, the Fulbright program has been a positive experience that she says she feels honored to be a part of.

“They always look out for our well-being and seek solutions. They check in on us,” she said.

While at Saint Michael’s, she has joined the choir and likes the close-knit campus community. She’s looking into Ph.D. programs for the future to study educational policy.

“I think Fulbright really is contributing in building my life professionally and humanly,” Samake said. “There are some values that I’m learning here that will be really useful for my personal life and for my professional life as well.”

Chayma Bouzenag

Chayma Bouzenag is pursuing a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (MATESOL) at Saint Michael’s.

Chayma Bouzenag hiking (Courtesy photo)

Bouzenag moved to Vermont in fall 2023 from her homeland of Algeria. It was her first international flight and the first time she had ever left Algeria.

“The experience in the Master’s program is amazing,” Bouzenag said. “I feel like everything we are learning, we are applying. It’s mixed perfectly with practice.”

Bouzenag will graduate from the MATESOL graduate program at Saint Michael’s in 2025. It will be her second Master’s degree. She earned her first Master’s in 2020 in English and taught at private schools in Algeria for several years before applying to be a Fulbright Scholar in the United States.

“When I was a teacher, I was really overwhelmed,” Bouzenag said. “Sometimes, I would just feel helpless because I couldn’t know how to teach certain things in a fun way, in a communicative way, in an effective way. But then I came here, and we learned all these things and it gives you a myriad of options and solutions.”

She said the things she’s learned outside of the classroom have been equally important to her.

“I love the Adventure Sports Center,” Bouzenag said. She went skiing for the first time ever and partook in the free lessons at Sugarbush. Her first day was difficult but she returned and said “the second day was amazing. I couldn’t believe that I was actually skiing without falling. I feel like that’s a huge milestone.”

Chayma Bouzenag skiing (Courtesy photos)

She’s also gone on hikes, rock climbing, mountain biking and will be going ice climbing. She traveled to New York City and will be going on a service trip to Connecticut with the campus community service organization MOVE. Bouzenag said it’s been easy to involve herself on campus too.

“I feel like being international student at St. Mike’s makes me seen,” Bouzenag said. “If there is any activity or any event, I am asked or invited to talk or to attend or to share my perspective or to share my experience. I really appreciate that. It makes you feel valued. And it really makes you feel like the campus is really inclusive.”

When she graduates next year, Bouzenag plans to return to Algeria and hopes to open her own school, taking with her a much broader teaching toolbox from her time at Saint Michael’s.

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