Alia Flanigan has always been intrigued by travel, and the different customs and flavors the world has to offer. And now that she has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship, she will get to experience even more of the world outside the cozy confines of Riverdale.
Flanigan, a former member of the women’s rowing team at Manhattan College who graduated last month, will head to the other side of the world come January to teach English to high school students as part of the Fulbright Program.
She applied to the U.S. government-funded program with a “statement of purpose” and a grant proposal. “I got awarded an English teaching assistant grant. So I’m going for 10 months to Malaysia and I’ll help the English teachers there. There is also a community engagement project I’ll be involved with on the weekends and after school, so it will be very busy.”
Seeing the world is nothing new to Flanigan as she has traveled the world with her family since an early age. So when it came time to decide on a college and a major, Flanigan’s globe-trotting ventures led her to a field of study that was right up her alley.
“I was always interested in learning about different cultures,” said Flanigan, a native of Sparta, New Jersey. “I’ve been traveling around the world since I was a child, and I was always fascinated by the different cultures. So when I was looking at schools, I was at first thinking pre-law. But then I saw some schools had very interesting diplomacy and international studies programs, so I went to Manhattan and studied that.”
That line of study led Flanigan to spend some of her college years away from the Jaspers’ Riverdale campus and the rowing team. But it also further fueled her passion for world studies.
“I was rowing for all my time at Manhattan, but I studied abroad for a year and a half,” Flanigan said. “My freshman year I was at Manhattan, and that’s when I started rowing. But in my sophomore year and the first half of my junior year, I was studying abroad. My sophomore year, I was in Paris for the whole year, and then in my first semester of junior year, I had an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Slovenia. Then when I came back to Manhattan, I went back to rowing again.”
Flanigan knew little about the Fulbright Program, but was encouraged by her friends and teachers to apply for it. But she also knew that it could be a long-shot proposition.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Flanigan said. “Everyone who told me about Fulbright told me it was really hard to get, so in the back of my mind I was like, ‘Let me just apply and see what happens.’ But when I actually heard that I got it, I didn’t believe it at first, and it still hasn’t completely sunk in. It’s slowly hitting me now that I’m actually going to go, and I’m really excited for this.”
Flanigan will leave sometime in January for Malaysia. But before she heads to the other side of the world, she’ll begin working on her graduate studies, which also will take her far from Riverdale.
“I’m going to start grad school in the fall semester at Central European University in Vienna,” Flanigan said. “Then when I come back from the Fulbright in Malaysia, I’m going to finish my grad school in Budapest.”
Flanigan, who also minored in French at Manhattan, said her long-term plans will be in a career that allows her to continue her passion for seeing all the world has to offer.
“I’m eventually hoping to apply for a job at either the United Nations or the U.S. State Department,” Flanigan said. “I’d really like to work at an embassy abroad, or even at the United Nations itself. But then after that, I’m not quite sure. But those are my goals for after grad school.“
During Flanigan’s 10-month hitch in Malaysia, she will assist English teachers Monday through Friday. But she will also undertake the task of creating a sports league for her new charges.
“For my civil engagement part of the program, I’m going to start sports teams, and most likely it’s going to be a baseball or softball league,” Flanigan said, “because resource-wise, that’s the easiest because you don’t need much.”
“But,” Flanigan added, “if they have a rowing team, I’ll be more than happy to help out with that as well.”