A University of Louisville alumnae has learned that persistence pays off.
Jessica Williams tried three times to earn a prestigious Fulbright scholarship. In early September, her diligence was rewarded: she learned she was selected for the prize and will spend most of 2018 in Brazil as an English teaching assistant at a public university.
“Receiving the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Brazil means more to me than words can adequately express,” Williams said. “I have had this personal goal and dream to live and teach in Brazil for over four or five years now and now knowing my goal has been realized is indescribable.”
Williams first applied for a Fulbright in 2015 when she was a college senior. Although she wasn’t selected for the award that year, she had an impressive back up plan — teach for the Spanish government in Madrid. She did that for two years.
She returned to Kentucky in July and has been working with a law firm that focuses on immigration law. But her stay in Kentucky will be short. She begins her stint as a Fulbright scholar in February.
Patricia Condon, who heads the national and international scholarship program at UofL, said candidates often apply multiple times for the scholarship.
“People typically think of a Fulbright award going to an undergraduate college student the same year as they finish their degree,” Condon said. “But a student who has graduated can continue to apply each year and there’s no age limit for the award.”
Williams brings the number of 2017 UofL Fulbright Scholars to six. Since 2003 the university has had 110 Fulbright scholars, more than all other Kentucky public institutions combined.
A graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences with degrees in Spanish, political science and Latin American and Latino studies, Williams is the daughter of Debbie and Jerry Williams of Villa Hills. She graduated from Notre Dame Academy high school in Park Hills.
She said she plans to use some of her time in Brazil to get involved with the community and host weekly English workshops at primary-level schools.
“I am incredibly excited to return to Brazil and to work in a university setting, meanwhile improving my Portuguese skills as well. To me, this opportunity shows the reward of hard work, persistence, dedication, and a little bit of good luck. It also shows what great mentors, professors and supporters I have had as a young adult,” Williams said.