Trinity College Class of 2016 Graduate Awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship

Alex Suarez to Spend a Year Teaching at Khovd University in Western Mongolia

​Hartford, Connecticut, May 31, 2016 – A member of Trinity College’s newly-graduated Class of 2016 has been awarded an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Beginning this summer, Alex Suarez will spend a year teaching English at Khovd University in the rural Khovd Province in western Mongolia. 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.

Alex Suarez Trinity College Class of 2016 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship ETA
​Alex Suarez '16. Photo by John Atashian
Suarez, a neuroscience major, was born in Cuba. His family moved to Canada when he was 5 before settling in Florida when he was 10. Suarez came to Trinity as a QuestBridge Scholar and sees teaching English as a way to offer similarly life-changing opportunities to other students. “I grew up in a poor setting, with schools and friends helping me out,” Suarez said. “There have been certain instances in my life where I’ve been given access to an opportunity and it’s changed the entire course of my life. At Trinity, I’ve enjoyed the chance to give opportunities to other people, and the Fulbright ETA Program follows that same vein. I think learning English is one of the biggest opportunities you can have, given the globalized nature of the world. If you know English, it opens so many doors.”

Suarez will travel to Washington, D.C., in June for a brief Fulbright orientation session, and will report to the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, on August 1, when he will begin a month-long orientation with other Fulbright grantees. “In that month I’ll be taking intensive language courses,” Suarez said. The Mongolian language uses Cyrillic script, so he plans to learn the Russian alphabet. “I’m one of those people that likes to do a little bit of everything,” he said. “There’s always a little room to explore or try something new.”

Fulbright applicants must explain how they plan to get involved in their host community. “I was thinking of maybe teaching some sort of Latin dance class at the university,” Suarez said. “I’ve been dancing for a long time, and I think that might be a good way for students to practice conversational English in a non-pressure setting.”

Suarez already has experience with community involvement. Along with Julia Duggan ’16, he co-founded Project PACKS, which stands for “providing academic change for kindling students.” The Trinity organization aims to help disadvantaged or food-insecure children in the Hartford area focus in school. Working together with the Charleston House for Interfaith Cooperation, Project PACKS donates an average of 40 food-filled backpacks per week to children who receive free or reduced-price meals at school, but may face hunger at home on the weekends. Project PACKS recently received the Community Service Award at Trinity’s Campus Life Leadership Awards ceremony, and Suarez and Duggan each received the Alexander A. Goldfarb Award for Community Service at the Honors Day ceremony.

After his year teaching in Mongolia, Suarez plans to take a gap year. “Two years from now I hope to be enrolled in medical school,” he said.

Alison Draper, director of the Interdisciplinary Science Center and lecturer in interdisciplinary science, has worked with Suarez as a member of the Health Professions Advising Committee (HPAC), which advises students interested in pursuing a career in the health professions. Draper said, “Alex has grown tremendously in his time at Trinity, both as a student and as a person. It’s been an honor to be part of that process. What has impressed me most, and what I think impressed the selection team at Fulbright, is how Alex has managed to pick himself up when things don’t go his way and pulled himself back on track.” Draper also advises QuestBridge scholars, and Suarez said she has offered him a lot of support. “I’m so proud of him and so excited for him to have this opportunity,” Draper added.

Two other members of the Trinity College Class of 2016 were named as alternates for U.S. Student Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships: Josh Frank for Taiwan; and Katherine Gagen for Argentina. Julia Duggan ’16, who co-founded Project PACKS with Suarez, was a semi-finalist for a U.S. Student Fulbright Research Grant for the Netherlands.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.

The Fulbright Program was established by Congress in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and is sponsored by the United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Its goal is to “enable the government of the United States to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit the website

Written by Andrew J. Concatelli