Fulbright Recipient Relishes Opportunity to Teach in Venezuela
June 27, 2014
Braeden Mayer BS’13 finds it ironic now that his parents had to force him to take Spanish in high school. They thought it would be more practical than studying French.
“You’re from Texas, you’re taking Spanish,” he recalls his parents telling him.
But the more he studied it, the deeper he fell in love with the language, the food and the culture of Spanish-speaking regions around the world. He took his first trip to South America with his sister right before she became a high school exchange student in Argentina.
Now he can’t wait to go back.
Thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship, Mayer will be teaching English next year in Venezuela.
“I think the language sounds beautiful when people speak it, and the politics of the region are fascinating,” Mayer said. “I’m very interested in the power dynamics in Latin America — how the U.S. is viewed and portrayed.”
Mayer is the second UT Dallas alumnus this year to receive a Fulbright Scholarship. Abhishek Raj, a May graduate in electrical engineering and a McDermott Scholar, also received the scholarship and will spend a research year in Germany.
He credited his professors at UT Dallas with cultivating his interest in Latin America, especially Dr. Sheila Piñeres, former dean of undergraduate education and now vice president for Academic Affairs at Austin College, and Dr. Jennifer Holmes, program head of public policy and political economy in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.
“I just find that region so different than anywhere else in the world. I tell others not to study in Europe if they want to study overseas. Those places will never change and will always be there. You want a place that will push you mentally, culturally and spiritually.”
“Braeden is an ideal candidate for a Fulbright. His personality is contagiously personable,” Holmes said. “He will represent the best of the United States in a country with which we do not have friendly relations.”
Mayer spent the fall 2012 semester in Nicaragua and wrote his honors thesis in Spanish on the political history of baseball in that country.
He first applied for the scholarship a year ago. When it didn’t come through, he took a job in digital content development for the grass-roots advocacy team at Edelman in Washington, D.C., a large public relations firm with offices around the world.
Mayer was in Chile, accompanying his mother on a business trip, when he learned he had won the scholarship this year.
“My mouth kind of dropped,” Mayer said. “I had just connected to the Internet and that was the email. I was in Chile for just three days and that’s when I received the email I’d been waiting on for 10 months.”
Nevertheless, he still called his dad and Dr. Douglas Dow, coordinator of the Office of Distinguished Scholarships and associate director of the University’s Collegium V Honors Program, to let them know he received the scholarship.
Mayer hopes to continue his politics and public policy work in the nation’s capital. But first, he will relish his time in Venezuela.
“I just find that region so different than anywhere else in the world. I tell others not to study in Europe if they want to study overseas. Those places will never change and will always be there. You want a place that will push you mentally, culturally and spiritually,” Mayer said.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, offers fellowships to graduate students and graduating seniors to study or teach in more than 140 countries. The nine-month stipend covers such items as flights, books and living expenses.