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JRF Alumna Choumika Simonis Receives Coveted Fulbright Grant

JRF Alumna Choumika Simonis Receives Coveted Fulbright Grant

JRF Alumna Choumika Simonis has been awarded the prestigious Fulbright grant for 2012. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the highly competitive program supports U.S. citizens to engage in study, research, or teaching assistantships abroad.

While unsure of her exact assignment, the 2011 Cornell University graduate will be an English Teaching Assistant at a high school or Islamic boarding school in Indonesia. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she intends to volunteer at a health clinic as well as learn how to play traditional Indonesian music.

"Volunteering in a clinic would provide me with the opportunity to gain exposure to the health issues facing the Indonesian population, which is my professional interest, Simonis said. "Music is a powerful medium that has helped me foster connections with people. Therefore, learning gamelan would help facilitate my cultural immersion," she added.

"We are so proud of Choumika's accomplishments, but not surprised," noted JRF President and CEO Della Britton Baeza. "Choumika is an extraordinary self-starter and will fit nicely into the exclusive club of Fulbright awardees, which includes 42 Nobel Prize winners. We certainly encourage JRF Scholars, who have proven leadership propensities, to think globally, and are confident that during her stay in Indonesia, Choumika will make a difference. We look forward to hearing about her experiences upon her return."

Choumika graduated from the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University in May 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology, Health and Society. She also completed a minor in Global Health. Passionate about global health issues, Choumika traveled to Moshi, Tanzania for nine weeks in the summer of 2009. Enrolled in a global health course at Tumaini University's Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College (KCMC), she worked with a team of KCMC and Cornell students to develop a case study on HIV and Infant Feeding Practices which is currently being used by the professors and students at KCMC. In addition, she served as an intern for Minjeni Women's Group Trust, a second generation NGO operating in a remote village in the lower hills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Since graduation, Choumika has been putting her skills and passion to good use by assisting with the recovery in Haiti through her work with the Children's Nutrition Program of Haiti. These experiences have fueled Choumika's interest in public health concerns on a global scale.

"I became interested in Indonesia as I befriended Indonesian students and library staff at Cornell. Their stories of Indonesia's incredible diversity - the myriad nationalities, religions, ethnic groups, and languages - fascinated me," commented Choumika. "As a result, I became curious and openly engaged in learning more about the country. I was very excited about the opportunity to experience the mutual exchange of customs in such a culturally rich environment."

Choumika described the Fulbright application process as "incredibly demanding". She revised her personal statement and statement of grant purpose a total of 25 times. But with the help of her family, close friends, and adviser, she was able to fit her life into a one-page single-spaced essay; a process that forced her to reflect deeply on her past, present, and future. Choumika will leave for Indonesia sometime in August and will stay for almost 10 months. When she returns to the United States, she will begin preparing for a new journey - on to medical school.

"A doctor is a teacher in many ways and I believe what I will learn as an English Teaching Assistant in Indonesia will be beneficial to me as a student and, in the future, as a practicing physician," she concluded.