Ashley Merscher ’08 has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to the Slovak Republic.
“It’s well known that bilingualism and multilingualism can open doors; but in Eastern Europe, it can literally open up a world of opportunity,” she says. “A common language is a tool that can facilitate tolerance, deeper connections, empathy, understanding and, on a higher scale, it can encourage peace. I look forward to being a part of that.”
Merscher, a Colorado College political science major and environmental science minor, and decided to apply for the Fulbright after teaching English abroad for 2 1/2 years.
Her first experience as a classroom teacher was in Budapest, Hungary, where she taught in a public primary school from 2015–17. “It was an incredibly interesting experience, using teaching tactics from American and British curricula, but implementing them into Hungarian national curriculum, which is still very much shaped by its communist past,” she says.
She currently lives in a rural community north of Madrid, Spain, where she teaches students ranging from first-graders to adults in vocational training courses. Teaching is “a challenging job, especially while transplanting yourself into a foreign culture, but it’s also incredibly rewarding,” she says.
Merscher notes that in Budapest and now in Spain, she’s worked with children who have more access to learning English. “I’d like to be in a country and work in a school where I can make a bigger impact,” she says of her desire to teach in Slovakia.
Merscher, originally from Sequim, Washington, says Eastern Europe has always interested her. “I remember hearing about conflict in that region when I was a kid, which made it more interesting to me than other areas of Europe,” she says. “Living in Hungary, every single day was a fascinating experience. I learned so much about the region, the culture, the people, the history ... you can see the remnants of communism throughout Budapest, socially, educationally, and architecturally. I became very interested in learning more about how this country, and this region, was recovering from such a recent, turbulent past, and watching reactions to new issues unfold, such as immigration. Soon enough, my interests crossed borders and I was visiting countries in the Balkans, as well as Slovakia and Romania.”
Prior to moving overseas, Merscher worked at the Palmer Land Trust in Colorado Springs, an organization that aims to conserve land in southeastern Colorado. She also served as assistant director of annual giving at Colorado College. Merscher is one of seven Colorado College Fulbright semifinalists this year, several of whom have been named finalists or alternates.