Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State senior awarded Fulbright to Mexico

May 5, 2015

An Indiana State University student is one of 20 students from across the nation selected to receive a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Mexico this year. This marks the second time a Sycamore has been awarded this type of a Fulbright grant.

Olivia Bohnhoff, a senior language, literature and linguistics major with a minor in international studies, applied for the assistantship to pursue her passion for teaching English. Although Bohnhoff grew up in Illinois, she said she has a desire to gain as much knowledge as possible about the culture she will soon be surrounded by in Mexico.

Bohnhoff has yet to find out her placement within the country and thus is not sure on what she specifically will be doing during the course of her assistantship. However, she will be completing a supplementary project relating to adult English education, as she said it presents a new set of challenges. In Mexico, English didn't become a mandatory course subject until recently, so while current students have had English education since primary school, older people in the community have not had the same opportunity.

"Olivia is incredibly knowledgeable, is very interested and inquisitive about the world and excited to engage with it," said Gregory Bierly, director of the University Honors Program, who also advised Bohnhoff throughout her time in the program and in developing her honors thesis. "She has a great skill set and the perfect attitude for teaching and learning. She is a scholar."

Bierly said Bohnhoff's analytical and critical qualities are some of her greatest assets in that they help her to improve her own ideas, understandings and writings.

"These qualities will enable her to innovate and adapt very effectively as a teacher," he said.

Mark Lewandowski met Bohnhoff through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship application process and advised her.

"Most students, especially undergraduates, do not have her breadth of experience," Lewandowski said, and that amount of familiarity and drive Bohnhoff has is why she deserves this grant.

Bohnhoff transferred to Indiana State at the start of her sophomore year from the University of Indianapolis, where she studied both anthropology and Spanish. That experience is what prompted her dream to teach English as a second language.

"Everything has been a step in my journey, and it's all connected," she said.

Those applying for Fulbright grants are allowed to choose from many different countries in which to complete their assistantship. But for Bohnhoff, Mexico was the obvious choice for two very different reasons.

First, logically -- most scholars would agree to let reason lead the way to such a pivotal decision, as applicants can only choose a single country to apply for an assistantship. Bohnhoff was no different, citing reasons that Mexico's and America's shared boarder means that the two's futures are "intrinsically related" and "economically intertwined." Her goal of becoming an English as a second language teacher in the American school system would only be benefitted by having close experience with Mexican culture, she added.

But selecting Mexico also came with emotional reasoning, too. In fall 2013, while studying abroad in Chile, Bohnhoff grew close to a few Mexican students. She said these new friends became her refuge in the struggle of learning Chile's Spanish dialect.

"We shared our culture with each other, and what's more, I was deeply affected by their kindness and generosity. So although it was initially intimidating to pick a country for Fulbright, once I had it narrowed down to Latin America, it was automatically Mexico," Bohnhoff said.


Photos: -- Indiana State University student Olivia Bohnhoff poses for a photograph with an eighth grade class during her time volunteering in an English teaching assistantship in Chile. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Bohnhoff) -- Indiana State University student Olivia Bohnhoff poses for a photograph with two eighth graders from a class in Chile that showcased U.S. Culture at an international fair. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Bohnhoff)

Writer and media contact: Haley Sluboski, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or