Mia Coutinho '20

Mia Coutinho ’20 is looking forward to becoming an engaged community member in the city of Madrid.

Mia Coutinho ’20 (Neuroscience)

Fulbright Scholarship (Cultural and Linguistic Exchange)

My hometown of Hopkinton, Mass., loves to boast that we are home to the start of the Boston Marathon. Because of this, my town welcomes thousands of elite runners from around the world every April, and the most beloved in my town is the arrival of the Kenyan runners. In elementary school in Hopkinton, in order to properly welcome and celebrate the arrival of the elite runners from Kenya, students are taught Swahili. I became fascinated by linguistic and cultural exchange when in third grade, I went to the start of the Boston Marathon and waved to Kenyan runners I recognized. This interest has only grown stronger over the years. This has meant a lot to my journey to Fulbright.

Summary: I will be heading to Spain in January of 2021. As a Fulbright Scholar, I will be, among other extracurricular projects, teaching English to students in Madrid at Public High School. Fulbright Awards allow students to teach, study, or conduct research abroad. As a neuroscience major completing an Honors Thesis on language learning and memory, I am particularly interested in the science behind second-language acquisition. I am excited to create a new life for myself in the Spanish language, while simultaneously being able to share my native language with others who hope to expand their horizons. Outside of the classroom, I hope to support the growing Judeo-Spanish movement and help Spaniards reconnect to their Sephardic (Jewish) history, a history that is being revived on the Iberian Peninsula. I will volunteer in local Jewish organizations and synagogues to restore, teach, translate, and support their efforts. I also hope to continue with my love of running, and plan on starting a running group focused on cultural and linguistic exchange. I am excited to tackle marathons in cities all over Spain, as my long-distance running will allow me to visit and explore various regions.

My experiences leading up to the grant certainly shaped my readiness to teach abroad. I have worked in several teaching roles: camp counselor, preschool teacher, art instructor, tutor, ESL teacher, and au pair. From these experiences, I believe I have developed my personal teaching style greatly, one that is defined by allowing each student to shine with their particular skill set and one that really celebrates curiosity. I also certainly bring in my psychology knowledge into the classroom, and my scientific background allows me to approach teaching from a unique angle. 

I was in Barcelona as an au pair, living with a Catalan family before later studying abroad in Granada, Spain. I adore all the regions of Spain, and am excited to experience Madrid, where I have never been before.

Anticipated highlight of the experience: I cannot name the one highlight I am most anticipating; I suppose the beauty of relocating lies in that idea that you are beginning a new life. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to challenge myself like that. There are a few aspects of the Fulbright I already know I’ll love: the students, the ability to lead a classroom, using the Spanish language every day, immersing myself in another culture, connecting with other Scholars … but I am really most excited for the parts one cannot expect or anticipate. These include my attempts to adjust to the new culture, my conversations with neighbors, my route to work, and my new favorite restaurant (which I’m sure I’ll discover soon after arrival). I’m most excited for those little things—the things that mark the difference between “staying” somewhere and “living” somewhere. I am excited to be an ambassador for my country while creating my own little space for myself in a new place. I don’t want to just be a visitor in Madrid, but an engaged community member.

How will the experience benefit you in the future? I hope that I will be an engaging teacher for my students in Madrid. If I am successful there, I have no doubt I will learn, admire, and be inspired by my students too, making the whole experience just as rewarding for me. In the future, I hope to continue to engage with second-language instruction, as I aspire to research neuroscience and linguistics upon arrival back in the U.S. I want to remain in higher education, while still pursuing my fascination in scientific research through a Ph.D.

Fulbright Scholars

  • Five Lafayette students were named Fulbright Scholars, the largest U.S. student exchange program offering opportunities to study, research, and teach in more than 140 countries worldwide (Bryan Cocco ’20, Henry Hinchey ‘20, J’Nisha Little ‘20, Mia Coutinho ‘20, Leah Epstein ‘20). Four additional students were named alternates (Tedi Beemer ‘20, Talia Baddour ‘20, Lexi Long ‘20, Yazmin Baptiste ‘20) out of the 23 Lafayette students who applied and 13 who were named semi-finalists.

Outstanding Students

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Read about the accomplishments of other Lafayette scholarship recipients.

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Categorized in: Featured News, Neuroscience, News and Features, Scholarships and Fellowships, Student Profiles, Students

1 Comment

  1. Gregory V MacDonald says:

    Mia –
    Congratulations on the Fullbright Scholarship, and enjoy your return to Spain! Please also stay in close contact with your alma mater. It has been a pleasure to see all that you have accomplished at Lafayette.
    Greg MacDonald

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