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Recent Alumna Awarded Fulbright to Teach in Kenya

A recent St. Lawrence University graduate and Kenya Semester Program participant has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant, allowing her to teach in Kenya.

Claire Silberg ’15 of Pittsford, New York, took part in St. Lawrence’s Kenya Semester Program in the Fall of 2013. She came back not only with an interest in Kenyan culture, the experience also helped steer her toward her current personal and career interests.

“I came back feeling so connected to the country that I wanted to somehow stay connected to it,” she said. “I also found what I was interested in doing while I was abroad, which was international development projects and community development work. It also got me interested in public health, which is something I never considered before going.”

Silberg, who earned a degree in psychology, came back to St. Lawrence after spending a semester in Kenya and started taking classes in African studies, eventually earning a minor in the program. She also took a class with Matthew Carotenuto, associate professor of history and Spring 2016 Kenya Semester Program director, where she wrote a paper on women’s health in East Africa for her capstone assignment.

After graduating, she moved to Maine and worked for a few months at a microbrewery before moving back to her hometown. Today, she interns for the Center for Refugee Health, where she works with refugee families in the Rochester area and is assisting with a research grant that will survey mental health interventions in the refugee community.

“I’ve always been a helper,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to work with people, and I’ve always wanted to work for under-served populations.”

The pull to do something in East Africa, however, remained strong. She knew a few people who had taken part in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, including St. Lawrence alumna Allison Paludi ’14, of Delanson, New York, who spent a year in Kenya on a Fulbright in 2015. Without any guidance or anyone encouraging her, Silberg decided to apply on her own.

“I thought, ‘Why not me; why shouldn’t I try?’” she said. “So, I took a chance and just applied. I’m so glad that I did. It makes me think, what else can I do now that I’m going to do this?”

Silberg, who also currently substitute teaches, will be assigned as an assistant English teacher at a Kenyan high school. As part of her Fulbright application, she proposed starting an extracurricular club that will use music and poetry to help students with their English proficiency.

“I played piano for years and sang in University Chorus,” she said. “Music has always been an important part of my life.”

Silberg will travel to Kenya in January 2017 and remain through November 2017. Her only regret now is that she wishes the program started sooner.

“There’s something about the culture there that I really miss,” she explained. “The people I met there were so wonderful and happy, and I felt that they really valued life in every opportunity that is given to them. It’s the people who drove me to want to go back.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide.

For more information about St. Lawrence University’s study abroad opportunities, including the Kenya Semester Program, visit St. Lawrence University's Center for International and Intercultural Studies.

List of St. Lawrence University Fulbright recipients:

  • 1986 Erik Craft, West Germany
  • 1991 Susanne Steinmann, Morocco
  • 1997 Thomas McFadden, Germany
  • 2000 Brendan O’Dell, Germany
  • 2008 Alexander Tedeschi, Russia
  • 2010 Joanna Fassett, India
  • 2012 Andrew Nguyen Le, Trinidad and Tobago
  • 2014 Allison Paludi ’14, Kenya