Katherine Gagen ’16 Receives English Teaching Assistantship Fulbright Grant

Trinity College Alumna to Teach English in Argentina in 2017

​Hartford, Connecticut, October 28, 2016 – A member of Trinity College’s Class of 2016 has been awarded an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Katherine Gagen will spend a year assisting an English professor at a teacher’s college in Argentina, in addition to completing an independent project of her own. The Fulbright ETA Program places U.S. students as English teaching assistants in schools or universities overseas, thus improving foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States while increasing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country.

Originally from Newton, Massachusetts, Gagen (pictured at right) completed double majors in Hispanic studies and urban studies and spent three semesters in study-away programs: two in Buenos Aires and one in Shanghai. She said it was this time abroad, coupled with her experiences in the Hispanic Studies Program, that most inspired her to pursue a Fulbright. Gagen cited in particular Assistant Professor of Language and Culture Studies Rosario Hubert, Charles A. Dana Research Professor of Language and Culture Studies Anne Lambright, and Adjunct Professor of Language and Culture Studies Priscilla Melendez for fueling her passion for the Spanish language. “It has inspired me to continue learning it,” Gagen said.

Beyond her academic interest in language, Gagen’s love of travel also propelled her to seek out this opportunity. Said Gagen, “Teaching abroad in Argentina will help me continue to develop as I move into my next stage of life. I believe that the best way to grow and develop is to see the world from another perspective, even if that means doing something you’re uncomfortable with. Traveling is one of the best ways to do this.” She is excited in particular about getting to know parts of Argentina outside of Buenos Aires. While studying abroad there for two semesters was an amazing experience, Gagen said, “Buenos Aires does not represent all of the country’s rich diversity.”

Stemming from this interest is her potential side project: a photo series about the effects of urbanization on indigenous communities. As a participant in the Cities Program, Gagen studied the importance of cities in the 21st century and how they contribute to globalization worldwide. It is partly for the side project that Gagen was attracted to the Fulbright program, as it encourages participants to immerse themselves in and learn from the host culture. 

About teaching English, Gagen said, “I’ve noticed that across the globe, English is the primary language through which people from different backgrounds communicate. This trend, coupled with the growing value of bilingualism, opens doors and opportunities, especially for nonnative English speakers. Knowing English allows for the spread of ideas and personal growth; it expands one’s academic framework and increases their intellectual capital. As an ETA, I would love to help create more opportunities for students to better their socioeconomic backgrounds, gain important life skills, and facilitate learning experiences.”

When she leaves for Argentina in March 2017, Gagen will be equipped for her time abroad with her flexibility and adaptability. She said, “Oftentimes when traveling, and in daily life as well, not everything goes according to plan, and you have to look at what you have and be resourceful.” She also credited her Trinity core course in Buenos Aires, “Buenos Aires: The Urban Experience, Human Rights, and Cultural Production,” taught by Silvina Persino, for preparing her with a foundation of knowledge in Argentine politics, culture, and history.

Of her future career, Gagen said, “I’m still debating my options.” Prior to being named a Fulbright recipient, she had planned to teach English in Colombia. Gagen said that plan isn’t off the table for after her year in Argentina, but she is also considering graduate school programs related to urban sustainability and development.

Trinity enjoys a strong tradition of educating Fulbright recipients who have an impact around the world. Lambright said, “I’m thrilled Katherine has been awarded a Fulbright teaching award and that she’ll be returning to Argentina, where she studied for a year on our program in Buenos Aires. Over the last decade, we’ve had 12 Fulbrights from our Trinity programs in Latin America. I think Latin America attracts students like Katherine who are open-minded, intellectually curious, and socially engaged – qualities that the Fulbright program seeks in its scholars. Katherine also spent a semester in Shanghai after her year in Buenos Aires. Her cross-cultural interests and experiences gave her a unique global perspective that certainly made her stand out among many highly qualified applicants.”

Written by Molly Thoms ’17