Meet Mercer’s visiting Fulbright scholar

Natalia Sterci is a graduate teaching assistant who is spending a year working and taking classes as part of the prestigious Fulbright Program. Although she misses her home in Brazil, she is making the most of her experience in the United States and thoroughly enjoying all that Mercer has to offer.  Autumn Vineyard / Cluster Staff
Natalia Sterci is a graduate teaching assistant who is spending a year working and taking classes as part of the prestigious Fulbright Program. Although she misses her home in Brazil, she is making the most of her experience in the United States and thoroughly enjoying all that Mercer has to offer.
Autumn Vineyard / Cluster Staff

Natalia de Souza Sterci is currently Mercer’s visiting professor as part of the Fulbright scholar program. Sterci is originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she studied during her undergraduate years in college.

Sterci originally studied to be a translator, but she later decided she wanted to be a teacher.

“When I was an undergrad, I quickly realized that wouldn’t be the right profession for me, because I really like talking to people,” said Sterci.

Sterci became a teacher when she was 19 and that was when she realized teaching is what she wanted to do. Apart from knowing how to speak her native language of Portuguese, she has studied French, English and Latin, and has begun studying German.

Sterci said that out of all the languages she has studied, English is probably her favorite. “Even though I’m teaching Portuguese now, I think I like English even more than my own language,” Sterci said.

One of the reasons that Sterci became interested in the Fulbright Program was that she wanted to study in America. She felt that a program through school would be the best way to be able to come to America.

“As I’m not rich by any means, I knew that the only way I would be able to come would be through my studies, so that’s why I’ve always studied really hard,” Sterci said.

Sterci said that she always knew her hard work would pay off eventually, and that she is incredibly glad she had the opportunity to study at Mercer. The Fulbright program that Sterci is part of actually has several programs within it; the one she is part of is the Teaching Foreign Language Assistant (TFLA).

According to Sterci, the program covers the costs of her coming to America, and going back home, as well as some of her living expenses. This includes a stipend and Mercer covering the cost of her apartment and meal plan.

Sterci described the program and said, “This is a program for English teachers who come here, and we have to share our cultures; we have to work as ambassadors of our country and the U.S. At the same time we have to learn more about America so that when we go back to our country we’re going to be better teachers.”

Sterci heard about the Fulbright program from one of her friends while she was studying in Brazil. This program only allows applicants to apply once a year.

Sterci started applying in 2012, and found out the Brazilian program selected her in December. However, acceptance into the program in Brazil is only the first part; acceptance by a university in America is required for full acceptance.Sterci said she did not request a specific school because she wanted to see where the program would take her. She found out in May of 2013 that Mercer had accepted her application.

As part of the program, Dr. Eric Spears acts as Sterci’s official supervisor and sponsor. According to Sterci, Spears has pushed a lot of programs at Mercer involving Brazil, including the one that brought her over here and a program

Autumn Vineyard / Cluster Staff
Autumn Vineyard / Cluster Staff

that sends Mercer students to study in Brazil.

Sterci also said that Dr. Leona Kanter and other people from the sociology department have worked as sponsors for her as well. She said that both Kanter and Spears, as well as everyone in the sociology department have treated her incredibly well since she has been here, and that she could not ask for better sponsors.

Sterci is the first person to teach Portuguese at Mercer and currently has around 25 students in her class. She said her experience at Mercer has been great, and that she has grown a lot professionally since she came to Mercer. She also said that everyone at the university has done their best to make her feel welcome.

“I don’t really feel homesick, maybe because everybody treats me very well here,” said Sterci.

Part of the program requires her to learn about America as well, so Sterci also takes a few classes at Mercer apart from teaching. She has also taught lectures about Brazilian culture at Mercer and at other colleges such as Middle Georgia State College, which is part of her responsibilities of being an ambassador for her country.

She is due to return to Brazil in May of this year.