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Vanessa Rice
May 11, 2023

Fulbright Scholar Travels Far Thanks to Majors in German and History

Vanessa Rice ’23, a Fulbright Scholar in Switzerland, is drawing on a rich background in the humanities while teaching English conversation classes to high schoolers. This grant represents a highly competitive placement in Switzerland, which has only three teaching awards in total. She recently received a Rangel Graduate Fellowship, a program that aims to attract and prepare outstanding young people for careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State.

Choosing to major in German and history with a justice concentration, Vanessa arrived at Berry already well traveled. “My experiences growing up overseas in Italy, South Korea and Germany instilled my love of adventure and language learning,” she says. “Languages equip us with new vocabularies to express ourselves and broaden our capacities for cross-cultural connection. I have studied Italian, Korean, Mandarin, French and German via immersion into local schools. In the United States, I have studied Spanish, and I continue to grow my German fluency.”

In 2022, Vanessa was the first Berry student awarded the Critical Language Scholarship sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. She spent nine weeks in Ankara, Turkey, soaking up the language and culture. “I grew my language skills through daily Turkish classes in Ankara and biweekly meetings with my language partner,” Vanessa explains. “I was surprised to learn that Turkish culture incorporates both traditional and modern styles of dress, architecture and societal norms. Through traveling to Istanbul, Cappadocia and Antalya, I learned that Turkish culture is incredibly hospitable, and I was stunned by the vast wealth of history unearthed in the Turkish countryside.”  

Awarded the Critical Language Scholarship a second time for the summer of 2023, Vanessa returned to Ankara to increase her knowledge of Turkish.

She observes that history is vital to expanding a person’s understanding of the world, whatever their major: “There’s a lot of compassion, empathy and wisdom that can come from understanding personal and global histories. Every discipline has a history within it. With an understanding of history, you will find connections between how your discipline has affected people’s decisions in the past and how it can affect your decisions now.”

Connecting with others was been integral to Vanessa’s experience as a student and leader at Berry. Through the student work program (LifeWorks), she held positions as a German tutor in the Academic Success Center and as an advanced writing consultant in the Writing Center. She enjoys the satisfaction of coaching students in brainstorming ideas and creating outlines. “I loved it when my clients could breathe sighs of relief and feel capable of getting their assignments done,” she says.

As a core group leader for the WinShape College Program, which focuses on leadership, discipleship and service through a residential community on campus, Vanessa guided the personal and professional development of three first-year scholarship recipients. As the student director of the Berry Center for Integrity in Leadership, she promoted events featuring guest speakers and designed and launched the new Leadership Labs initiative.

Wherever she journeys in her career, Vanessa’s capacity to apply lifelong skills grounded in the humanities — problem-solving, communication, collaboration, research, leadership and empathy — will take her far. “In reflecting on my time at Berry, I cannot help but marvel at how faithful the Lord has been to weave every thread of my story together,” she says. “No experience has gone to waste. Each opportunity has equipped me with integral strengths with which I serve my students in Switzerland.” 

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