A 2008 Williamsport Area High School graduate soon will travel to Madrid, Spain, to teach English as one of 10 students from Northwestern University to receive a Fulbright Fellowship.
Francis Lovecchio, son of Marc and Angela Lovecchio, of Williamsport, received word in April that he will spend an academic year - from September through June - teaching in Madrid with the Fulbright program before returning to Northwestern to pursue a medical degree.
The Fulbright Program awards about 8,000 grants each year to 1,600 U.S. students, 4,000 foreign students, 1,200 U.S. scholars and 900 visiting scholars, as well as several hundred teachers and professionals.
"A Fulbright Fellowship is run by the (U.S.) government, and they give out fellowships every year to a select number of graduates and graduate students ... to do research projects abroad," Lovecchio said. "They also give fellowships to students to teach English in foreign countries."
The application process was long and arduous, involving two essays, three recommendations, an evaluation of foreign language skills ... and lots of waiting.
"The application process has taken me a year. I started in April of last year, and I found out in April of this year," Lovecchio said. "It was a lot of waiting. I was obviously ecstatic (to receive a fellowship), but I don't think it really hit me ... I think it's just starting to hit me now."
A teaching fellowship may seem incongruent with a medical career, but Lovecchio believes that his love for teaching and his goal to become a doctor are "extremely related."
"I think they go hand in hand, and becoming good at the one is only going to help me become better at the other," he said. "Teaching requires so many interpersonal connections ... and being a physician is about making those personal connections as well."
Lovecchio received his bachelor's in June, and believes his Spanish major gave him an edge over the competition for the fellowship. He received early admittance to Northwestern's seven-year medical program, which allowed him to pursue other interests in the first three years of college.
"This whole time in college I knew that I was going to be going to med school, so it kind of opened up the opportunities to do things that were a little different," he said. "So I decided to be a Spanish major."
Through his major, he was able to visit Spain for six weeks last year.
"In order to complete my Spanish major, I had to study abroad there last summer. I was in Barcelona," he said.
Lovecchio also briefly visited Madrid, where he got to see the World Cup.
In addition to improving his Spanish-speaking abilities, Lovecchio also has spent his college years gaining teaching experience through Peer Health Exchange, a program which partners with public schools lacking health education programs. Through Peer Health Exchange, Lovecchio was trained to teach a comprehensive health curriculum to high school students in Chicago.
"I've always really loved teaching," Lovecchio said, adding, "My mom's a teacher, and that was always very inspiring to me."
Lovecchio will teach English to high school students for one school year, returning home in June to continue his medical studies.
"I'm really, really excited. I'm living on my own in Spain ... I'm a little nervous about navigating all that. But I'm just really excited and I'm going to try my hardest to do the best I can," he said.
In addition to teaching, Lovecchio also will spend time compiling research on the effect of a recent influx of immigrants on Spain's health care system.
"I'm not only teaching English, but I also have a side project, and my side project is directly related to medicine," Lovecchio said. "While I'm there, I wanted to interview some Spanish physicians and ask them what their experiences have been with this (health care system) ... I'm really interested to see how I can apply what I learn there to maybe when I'm a doctor later."
The purpose of the program, according to the Fulbright website, is "to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries" in hopes that participates will "contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns," and Lovecchio is prepared to embrace this goal.
"I just want to learn the Spanish culture. I want to become as Spanish as possible. I don't want to permanently change myself, but I just want to completely participate in everything they do and be open to everything," he said. "I want to make a lot of good friends."