CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University senior Danielle Elizabeth Hochstetter of Charlotte has been chosen to receive a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, and will spend 13 months in South Korea teaching English as a foreign language.
Being named a Fulbright Scholar puts Hochstetter in select company. The Institute of International Education, which administers the Fulbright educational exchange program, annually receives about 5,000 applications for scholarships through its U.S. Student Program, but only about 1,000 students are awarded scholarships worldwide. The program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.
Hochstetter is a dean’s list student at Western and member of the university’s Honors College. She is the daughter of Barbara Hochstetter of Charlotte and Gregory T. Hochstetter of Los Angeles.
Hochstetter’s trip to South Korea will be far from her first experience in international travel, as she first ventured overseas at the tender age of 15. She saved her babysitting fees and allowance money to travel to Australia in July 1996 through the People to People Student Ambassador Program. Hochstetter said she enjoyed that trip so much that, upon returning home, she began saving money for a second People to People trip. Her destination in 1999 was China.
“I chose China because I was ready for the challenge of a vastly different culture. I learned from that experience how important it is to know some of the language of the country you are visiting,” she said.
In the meantime, Hochstetter’s father had moved away from Charlotte – first to Washington, D.C., and then to South Africa, providing another opportunity for his daughter to travel.
“My father flew my brother and me to Pretoria, South Africa, twice to visit him, and those trips made a big impression on me,” she said. “I saw what it was like to live in another culture. I had traveled to other countries and seen the sights, but had learned nothing about assimilating to another country. I discovered how easy it is to do the first, and how rewarding it can be to do the second.”
Hochstetter’s travels weren’t over. She took time out from her studies at Western to venture to Finland, where she spent the 2001-02 academic year learning the Finnish language at the University of Tampere. “In Finland, I practiced assimilating to another culture. I found that adapting to different cultures is one of my strongest abilities, besides being one of the most enjoyable activities I have ever done,” she said.
Many international students in Finland come to that country to improve their English, not to learn Finnish, Hochstetter said. She suddenly found herself to be an expert in the English language. “We had dinner parties almost every weekend where we played games such as charades and Scattergories. It was in those situations that I began thinking about teaching English abroad. The more I thought about teaching, the more it appealed to me,” she said.
In Finland, Hochstetter lived with two other international students, and so that trip did not provide an opportunity to learn about home life in Finland. She will live with a South Korean family during her Fulbright experience, which will be “a new educational experience for me in itself,” she said.
A music business major at Western, Hochstetter started playing violin at the age of 10. By the time she reached Myers Park High School in Charlotte she was playing violin every day at school and performing in two ensembles two nights each week. She calls her experience with the violin the biggest challenge of her life.
While in Finland, Hochstetter performed with the Tampere Chamber Orchestra. “I was exposed to new music, the Finnish language and the Finnish work ethic all at once. And all in a language I could understand – the language of music,” she said.
Hochstetter said she plans to delve into traditional Korean music during her upcoming adventure and look for opportunities to play in a South Korean ensemble.
The 23-year-old will graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Western in May. Her last semester as a Western student has been spent fulfilling an internship in the ticketing department of North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte. Hochstetter said she plans to start learning the Korean language on her own before her departure on July 5.
Hochstetter’s first six weeks in South Korea will be spent at a university studying Korean and learning how to teach English. For the remainder of her time in that country she will be working as a teacher’s assistant, helping a Korean teacher instruct middle school children in the English language. She won’t know who her host family is until after she arrives in the east Asian country.
The Fulbright program covers the cost of airfare to the host country and health insurance, and also provides a monthly stipend of about $1,100 and other allowances to help students meet expenses.
Looking to the future beyond her Fulbright experience, Hochstetter said she might attend graduate school to study ethnomusicology, or seek more experiences teaching English as a foreign language.
Jill Ghnassia, dean of Western’s Honors College and chair of the campus Fulbright committee, said Hochstetter possesses an impressive combination of intelligence, compassion and curiosity.
“I’m not surprised by her selection,” Ghnassia said. “Danielle is an individual who will represent the best of what this nation is all about. Western can be proud of graduating such an outstanding young woman who will certainly make her mark on the world.”