Grace Gilbert ’21 has a curious mind. One that takes her on a variety of adventures. She immerses herself in language—reading and writing in her native English as well as Spanish, her second language. She is captivated by art as both a student of art history and as a painter who works in oils and now also explores gouache and watercolors. A violinist, she has performed with the Bethlehem Community Orchestra. An athlete, she ran for the track and cross country teams. And, her interest in Spanish and other cultures has taken her to Spain, first on a two-week field course in archaeology at the end of her sophomore year, and then in the spring of her junior year, to Madrid for a study-abroad semester from which she had to return early due to COVID.
This fall, Gilbert will begin her greatest adventure yet as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Mexico.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Gilbert enrolled at Moravian undecided. “One of the reasons I chose Moravian was that it offered a little bit of everything,” says Gilbert. So, she took courses in different departments and found herself consistently choosing art, English, and Spanish. Gilbert graduated this May with a double major in English and Spanish and a minor in art.
While Gilbert’s pursuits are many, her motivation is singular—relationship.
“In second grade, I had a friend from Chile who only spoke Spanish. We had other ways to communicate—running around and playing during recess—but we couldn’t communicate fully,” says Gilbert. “That’s what motivated me to learn Spanish. Now my friend knows English, and I know Spanish.”
In high school, art teacher Mrs. Attivo showed Gilbert how to use art as a form of connection. And as for English, Gilbert knows that the communication skills she has honed as a writer and student of literature will serve her no matter what path she travels in the future.
The importance Gilbert places on relationship is what fueled her interest in the Fulbright Program, whose mission is to build “lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries—building mutual understanding between nations, advancing knowledge across communities, and improving lives around the world.” (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs)
“At some point everyone realizes life is short, and you want to do big things. In my sophomore year, I was poking around at different opportunities trying to figure out what I was going to do after college, and I discovered the Fulbright Program,” says Gilbert, “It aligned with my philosophy: peaceful connection, friendship, fostering good relationships. All of that is especially important now as we are coming out of the pandemic and out of isolation.”
Gilbert has been awarded a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship in Mexico, though as of this writing, she does not know the age group of the students or where she will be teaching. “I’m excited for whatever happens,” she says.
She chose Mexico having been inspired by the country’s artistic and literary traditions. Writer Carlos Fuentes and painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo are among her favorites. “I want to continue to learn about the artistic and literary traditions in Mexico,” says Gilbert. “The geography interests me as well.”
But Gilbert is most excited about working in a school and connecting with students. “I’ve worked with kids as a volunteer elementary track coach, and I look forward to working with young people again and making their experience the best that I can give them.”
Gilbert has already put a lot of thought into her teaching. The Monarch butterflies of eastern North America overwinter in Mexico, and Gilbert imagines a lesson that looks at the Monarchs’ migration from Mexico into the United States and Canada. For a side project that would aid in language learning, she plans to write and illustrate books, part English and part Spanish and tailored to the age and language level of her students. Of course, she plans to engage students in art projects. “I want to use art to make meaningful connections with students,” Gilbert says.
“I am there to teach, and to provide my point of view,” adds Gilbert, “but also to learn other perspectives and make good relationships.”
Gilbert credits her interdisciplinary education and the community at Moravian for preparing her for selection to the Fulbright Program. “I’ve had so many great professors who encouraged me, especially Dr. Tabor and Dr. Ferrero,” she says.
As for future plans, post-Fulbright, Gilbert is undecided. Perhaps graduate school for comparative literature. Maybe law school. “I see myself in a lot of different areas in the workforce,” says Gilbert.
And with her rich liberal arts background, her far-reaching curiosity, and her openness to new experiences, she’s sure to find something big.