Kristen Carlson (‘18) receives Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Latvia

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Kristen Carlson (‘18) receives Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Latvia

Kristen Carlson ('18) will be living in Riga, Latvia for a year on a Fulbright grant to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Kristen Carlson ('18) will be living in Riga, Latvia for a year on a Fulbright grant to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Carlson ('18)

Kristen Carlson ('18) will be living in Riga, Latvia for a year on a Fulbright grant to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Carlson ('18)

Photo courtesy of Kristen Carlson ('18)

Kristen Carlson ('18) will be living in Riga, Latvia for a year on a Fulbright grant to be an English Teaching Assistant.

Aidan O'Driscoll, Staff Writer

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   After graduating Luther with majors in communications studies, philosophy, and music, alum Kristen Carlson (‘18) travelled to Riga, Latvia in September 2018 to begin a year-long position as an English Teaching Assistant. The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board awarded Carlson a Fulbright grant to do this.

    The Fulbright grant provides Carlson funding for a year of travel and living expenses in Latvia. The English Teaching Assistant program will allow her to educate Latvian students in English and American culture at both the Riga Teika Secondary School and Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Music Academy.

   Carlson will be using this opportunity to explore new practices that are not in her background.

“It is definitely a new experience. Education is not part of my background at Luther,” Carlson said. “But one of the strengths of the Fulbright program is that it provides people with the tools and experience to be able to develop that.”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Carlson (’18)
Kristen Carlson (‘18) triple majored in communications studies, philosophy, and music.

     Carlson, who has been living in Latvia for roughly three weeks,  has yet to begin teaching. Instead, she has been immersing herself in the culture: visiting museums, meeting new people, and learning the complicated history of Latvia—a country that has, until recently, been under Soviet rule. The country is celebrating its centennial year of independence.

   “It has been very interesting to talk to people who have been here their whole lives but have a Russian background. Russian is the language they speak at home and that is what they are teaching their children,” Carlson said. “Then speaking with citizens who have also lived in Riga their whole life, whose parents are Latvian and have lived through the occupation and what their understanding of the country is. Those perspectives, brought together, is how we understand the new Latvia, this new generation that is coming from this convoluted history but is trying to make their own way.”

  Following her acceptance into a PhD program for communication studies at the University of Minnesota, Carlson deferred on account of her Fulbright award. She plans to attend the University of Minnesota in Fall 2019 and hopes she can bring some research back from her experience abroad.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Carlson (’18)
Kristen Carlson spent her first weeks in
Latvia immersing herself in culture and
sightseeing.

   “I am hoping to really take an analytical look at not only the music school that I am working in, but also the people that I meet, conversations that I have about the political and social structure of the country, and how that has evolved in the past twenty to thirty years,” Carlson said. “One of my interests in coming here was to learn more about the political divisions that have lined the country in the past century and learn more about what the relationship is like with Russia currently, especially as U.S. relations have been more tense.”

   It is Carlson’s curiosity and desire to make connections—as she hopes to do in Latvia with regard to education, communications, and diplomacy—that allowed her to achieve success during her education at Luther. Professor of Music and College Organist Gregory Peterson (‘83) advised Carlson throughout her Luther career.

   “She was very intentional about not only majoring in three distinct areas, but how do those three intersect in ways that interested her and ways that she could see bringing them together. She did this not only for further study, but really what she wants to do vocationally and career-wise,” Peterson said.

   Professor of Communication Studies Kim Powell affirmed Carlson’s ability to integrate her academic realms.

   “She is able to connect a lot of ideas and engage in theory at a higher level than most undergraduates are,” Powell said. “We did a mock interview before she did the Fulbright, about how she sees good relationships between all three [of her majors]. She sees music as an integral part to balance the philosophy and rhetoric.”

   Powell, who travelled to the United Arab Emirates in 2006 as a Fulbright scholar, helped Carlson throughout the application process and has remained in contact with her throughout her time in Latvia thus far.

  “I am a strong believer in the Fulbright program, because she will come back, as other Fulbrighters do, with a better understanding of a different region of the world and a different outlook,” Powell said. “I think she will do excellent.”

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