St. John’s Fulbright Recipient Looks Forward to New Experiences
Michael Benjamin ’16C, ’17G was a commuter student at St. John’s. Though he enjoyed spending his days on campus and evenings at home, he was eager to begin a new academic experience this summer—living and learning in a rural district of the Slovak Republic.
The New York City native is the recipient of a 10-month Fulbright Scholarship. Mr. Benjamin is the 29th St. John’s student to earn the honor since 2012. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs.
Through the award, Mr. Benjamin will teach English to high school students at the Gymnázium Snina. Located near the border with Ukraine and Poland, Snina is a town of approximately 20,000 people. He will spend about 20 hours a week in the classroom and the remainder of his time engaging with the local community.
Living for nearly a year in a foreign country may seem demanding, but Mr. Benjamin said he was up to the challenge. “I’d like to create a book or film club—different ways to exchange language, culture, even food,” he said. “With my urban background and their more rustic experiences, there are so many opportunities to learn new things.”
As a student at St. John’s, Mr. Benjamin enjoyed college life in his hometown. “New York is the center of everything,” he observed. “There was a lot to be said for continuing my education here.” The University’s focus on Global Studies whet his appetite for learning in other countries. The Discover the World program allowed Mr. Benjamin to study in Rome, Italy; Paris, France; and Seville, Spain—in a single semester. “I thought, ‘Why not experience life somewhere else?’”
In addition, Mr. Benjamin was the editor of The Torch, St. John’s student newspaper, and Sequoya, the campus literary magazine. He also served as a student consultant in the University Writing Center. “I did a lot of work with multilingual learners, helping to teach English and develop students’ writing skills. I thought a Fulbright would be a great way to consolidate everything I’d learned.”
Mr. Benjamin completed the dual B.A./M.A. in English this past May, with minors in Government and Politics and Business. His interests in history, politics, language, and literature “dovetail into an interest in culture,” he said.
Eventually, Mr. Benjamin hopes to earn a Ph.D., though he is not sure what field he wants to pursue. “My feeling is that the Fulbright will open doors I don’t even know exist,” he stressed. “I might want to teach or get a government job shaping educational policy. I’m open to whatever comes my way.”