St. Edward’s Fulbright winner reflects on 8 months in India, undergrad experience

The imposing mystery of what we will do after leaving St. Edward’s University is one of the most relevant questions we as students can ask, and it is conveniently implanted in St. Edward’s mission statement: Take on your world.

Alumna Samantha Mendoza is a real life embodiment of this purpose. What started at St. Edward’s has taken her all the way to Chennai, India to teach English at the Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School.

She is one of a handful of St. Edward’s students chosen for the prestigious Fulbright scholarship, a program that awards new undergraduates grants for research or teaching English in another country.

The travel opportunities Mendoza had at St. Edward’s fostered her desire to go international. It was actually her Spring Break Experience to Bangalore, India that ignited her Fulbright mission to fully immerse herself in the country. She has seen her journey come full circle, as she impacts kids through teaching in Chennai while taking a six-hour train ride on the weekends to visit the same boys’ home she cared for with SBE.

Mendoza credits the great success of her time in India to her St. Edward’s experience. As a former Hilltop Views copy editor, Hilltop Leadership Development Coordinator and Residence Advisor, Mendoza’s undergraduate career was anything but boring. Yet no matter how hectic her schedule may have been at times, she believes it was these opportunities that have so thoroughly enriched her time in India.

“St Ed’s is just the place for opportunity! I think that’s why we had so many Fulbrights last year; because it just really offers you the opportunity to lead and to find yourself and to find yourself in others through service and through social justice. It really expands your worldview. So I took advantage of every opportunity that it gave me and eventually found my way here. Those four years gaining the experience took a lot and took a while, but I made it here,” Mendoza said.

In honoring the value of her alma mater, Mendoza has held the values and mission statement of St. Edward’s close at heart in her time abroad. She has tried to implement the education of heart and mind with her students, teaching them about community and global issues as well as building her relationship with them.

However, living in a foreign country around a foreign culture is a true test of courage and self. In one instance of self-doubt, she received a piece of advice from her father that has stuck with her throughout the journey.

“When I was a little stressed out one day about my teaching style, I called my dad and he told me ‘You know, Samantha, your main focus there is making an impact on those kids. As long as you do that at the end of the day, nothing else matters,’ and that’s really stuck with me throughout my time here. Now that I’m leaving, being able to see the manifestation of that in my teaching and in my students, that’s been the most rewarding part for sure,” Mendoza said.

With eight months down and one to go, Mendoza has begun contemplating the larger meaning of her journey and how she hopes to incorporate it into her future. Upon return, she plans to attend graduate school at Syracuse University and pursue a career in international journalism.

“[This experience] really allows for greater cultural sensitivity, and as a journalist it allows me to not try to tell a story but to hear stories and learn from other people, so that’s kind of been a big take away for me. It’s really just allowed the opportunity to grow and to question literally everything about myself but in a way that’s allowed me to come out of it more whole, more fulfilled and more informed about the world and everyone I encounter, so it’s been incredible,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza’s last piece of advice to anyone unsure of their future?

“Do anything and everything you want to do, and just find a way to make it work and work hard for what you want. You’re going to make it eventually. That’s my two cents.”