Stetson Alumna Receives Fulbright Award to Germany

Maeve Coughlin traveled to Germany on a Stetson Study Abroad trip after her first year in college and enjoyed it so much that she changed her major to history when she returned.

Portrait at Holler Foller in cap and gown with others milling about behind her.
Maeve Coughlin ’17

“We were taking a German history class while we were over there and to have the really interesting content of that course and also be there to actually see it, that was really exciting to me,” said Coughlin, recalling the trip to Freiburg, Germany.

Now, Coughlin is set to travel again Aug. 26 to Germany – this time on a prestigious Fulbright award to serve as a teaching assistant and cultural ambassador. She is only the third Stetson student to be selected for the award since 1992, according to the Fulbright website.

“A Fulbright award, whether it be for students or for faculty, is highly regarded throughout the world,” said William Nylen, Ph.D., professor of political science and Stetson’s Fulbright Program adviser. “Each application is vetted at multiple levels by highly qualified professionals and academic experts, including in the host nation.

portrait outside with town in a valley behind him
William Nylen

“In Maeve’s interview with the university evaluation committee, she exuded a clear sense of purpose in her life and, in her mind, that purpose led her directly to this Fulbright opportunity. It was clear to all of us on the committee that her multifaceted skill set — educator, graphic designer, photographer, writer/storyteller — would serve her well in teaching and in engaging with her host community. And her knowledge of German history, language and culture was so impressive!” he wrote.

Coughlin, who graduated with a B.A. in History last December, said she decided at the last minute to apply for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduation.

“I didn’t want to jump into a career or go right into grad school,” she said. “I was looking for something to do and I heard about the Fulbright Student Program before. I studied German. I studied abroad there before and it was always a place that I thought I could see myself going back to. I thought it would be a really awesome experience.”

Through the program, she will work as a teaching assistant in two German schools – an elementary school and a high school in Erlangen, north of Nuremburg, in Bavaria – helping students learn about American culture and English language culture.

She will work there until June 30, 2019, receiving airfare and a monthly stipend from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, and living in an apartment with a German college student.

Funded annually by Congress, the Fulbright program is named after former U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright who introduced the bill in 1945 to create a program to foster international education exchange. It now operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Coughlin learned of her selection in March while working as a communications intern at the National Park Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she helped with graphic design and social media management. She worked in an office that administers historic preservation grants to projects around the country – a role that she may pursue one day as a career.

“I got the email while I was waiting at my bus stop. I was checking my phone because the bus was late, as is usual in D.C.,” she recalled. “It was kind of overwhelming and shocking at first. … I just got on the bus and smiled at myself. It was a few hours before I called my parents that evening. I just kept it to myself for a few hours just to have that feeling all to myself.”

She credits Stetson’s Study Abroad program for opening the door for the Fulbright award.

“I did the Freiburg program after my freshman year of college and I think that was a really unique and eye-opening experience for me. It was the first time I had left North America,” she said, adding she and her fellow students took classes in the morning with professors from Stetson and spent time in the afternoons in the German community. “Especially so early in my college career, I think it built the foundation for me to go on to further opportunities like the Fulbright.”

A member of Stetson’s evaluation committee, who had been Coughlin’s professor, described her as “one of the most diligent, well-organized and mature students I have taught,” recalled Nylen. “There is no doubt that Maeve will be an excellent ‘Fulbrighter,’ representing the best of our country and of Stetson University.”