URI student awarded Fulbright Fellowship to study, teach in Colombia

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South Kingstown resident aims for career in international development

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 12, 2011 – University of Rhode Island senior Meg Frost is determined to learn all she can about Hispanic culture.

She has already traveled to Costa Rica twice, spent a semester in Spain, and worked at a think tank analyzing Central American politics. Now she’s headed to Colombia as a Fulbright Fellow to teach English to college students, take classes, and engage in a community service project.

“The Fulbright Program is all about being a cultural ambassador for the United States and promoting cross-cultural dialog through education,” said Frost, a resident of South Kingstown. “It’s going to be an intense intellectual and educational experience, while at the same time being great fun.”

She leaves for Colombia in July for 10 months of what Frost describes as “the only piece of the puzzle that I’m missing.

“After studying so much about Latin America and learning Spanish, I’m looking forward to putting faces on the theories that I’ve been studying,” she said.

Frost enrolled at URI as a communications major, but quickly fell in love with political science.

“I loved studying something beyond my hometown, beyond myself, something larger, knowing that something else was out there,” she said. “I also loved applying political theories to real life events.”

Her interest in the Spanish language, which started with classes in high school, led her to spend a semester in Spain during her sophomore year at URI.

“My host family said that my Spanish sounded like I was from Mexico or Puerto Rico, and their goal was to make me speak like a Spaniard,” she said. “I’ve been told, at least accent-wise, that they succeeded.”

When she returned to Rhode Island, she struggled to find opportunities to speak Spanish until she became a volunteer with the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative and started teaching immigrants to speak English.

“I was seeking exposure to the Hispanic community,” Frost said. “I really enjoyed the feeling I got from being around people with different cultural backgrounds.”

That passion, and her fluency with the Spanish language, led her to a summer job at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C., where she conducted research on Mexican and Andean region politics and economics. She read and analyzed news articles in Spanish about what was happening in the region, attended events with senior officials from Latin American countries, and quickly learned to love economics.

“It made me realize that this is what I want to study,” Frost said. “I began to think about development issues from a policy perspective instead of from an academic or grassroots perspective.”

Her decision to apply for the Fulbright Fellowship came in a roundabout way.

“I had never seen my academics as being nationally competitive,” she said, “but I was encouraged to apply for a Truman scholarship last year, and I made the finals. Going through the process of applying and interviewing for it was emotionally taxing, but after that, when the Fulbright opportunity presented itself, it made a lot of sense, especially since I enjoy teaching ESL and the idea of living in Latin America.”

When Frost completes her Fulbright Fellowship next May, she plans to enroll in a graduate degree program at a university in Europe and ultimately pursue a career in international development in Latin America.

“That’s something I’m really passionate about,” said Frost. “I’d like to help make the U.S. Agency for International Development more responsible to aid recipient populations. I want to make it more effective over the long term.”

It’s a lofty goal, but given her experience and determination, it doesn’t seem out of reach.