Fulbright Scholar Hollynd Boyden
Hollynd Boyden ’17, is a biology major from Portland who will serve as an English Teaching Assistant in Mexico.
When was your “aha moment” when you realized you could be a Fulbright candidate?
I think it started being more real probably a month and a bit ago. My parents were in town for my brother’s track race, Santa Clara’s track team. The other parents who I knew I had applied kept bringing it up, bringing it up, and I thought, “Actually, yeah, maybe I have a shot at this.” Until then it had kind of felt like a very distant reality or possibility because it's such a competitive process. Dr. Leilani Miller had said over and over, “I think you're a really strong candidate.” But they’re so competitive that I didn’t want to get my hopes up throughout the application process. As I was writing my answers and speaking with my parents and friends, they all emphasized, “You have just as much of a shot as anyone else.” I think Dr. Miller even emphasized that more. So throughout the process I was given more confidence by those around me, but still inside, I just wanted to be realistic with myself.
What sort of “high impact” experiences did you have at SCU and how did they prepare you for being a Fulbright?
I studied abroad with the Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador in the Fall of my junior year. It’s a four-month study abroad intensive program. It focuses on classes but also largely emphasizes being in the communities. El Salvador has had a pretty hard recent history with a civil war in the 1980s and early 90s, and now is wrought with a lot of violence. And so just being in the communities, especially in the rural communities in El Salvador was super impactful. That reality is so different. It opened my eyes a lot to what education looks like, where students wake up in the mornings and have to walk to their school over an hour, just to go to school with extremely limited resources. I also accompanied the mothers in their homes as they spent all day cooking and cleaning and were working on top of that to provide for their families. The cultural reality was that education isn’t as highly emphasized as it was for me growing up. My parents were teachers and always emphasized how important education was, and in El Salvador, that wasn’t the case.
In El Salvador, I also worked for one day in a nonprofit medical clinic, and seeing what non-privatized health care looks like in a developing country was also so contrary to my experience in the States. The following summer, going into my senior year, I went on an immersion trip to Ecuador with the Ignatian Center. And again, similar to my time in El Salvador, we got to see even more what education looks like in Ecuador. The students were really taught only to memorize. They were taught to copy the notes from the teacher. As we were helping doing homework assignments with them, their focus was really, “I just want the answer so I can go play,” as opposed to, “Help me learn.” I remember sitting with one student, I was having to help her write down how Little Red Riding Hood expressed and showed determination and perseverance, and at one point, she just looked at me and was like, “Can’t you just do this for me?” And I said, “No, no. We can work on this together.” That was a really impactful moment in my time in Ecuador.
My degree is in biology, and I also studied public health science and Spanish. I really got excited about public health after being in El Salvador because there are so many different parts of public health, and I think education is one of them. In Ecuador, we also did some more medical clinic work, so it was a combination of teaching and health care. And throughout all the experiences, education kept popping up for me.
Where did you observe SCU’s values most in this process?
In El Salvador, the idea of accompaniment was present in everything we did. The days we spent in communities were called Praxis Days, which really comes from the model of accompaniment. We don’t go to change or fix or do anything, but really to hear and understand the reality and listen to the stories. I definitely felt that value of accompanying others in their journey was really present in all of my experiences in El Salvador. And then I think the value of commitment to others, which was, is, and always has been part of my life, was really emphasized during my time at Santa Clara. In El Salvador, we committed to others through our social justice work.
We would have reflection nights every Thursday night while I was in El Salvador as a community. We were also encouraged to journal and reflect upon what we were seeing every day. On Tuesdays, we would also have spirituality nights, which are optional, to dig deeper into some of the reflections and experiences we saw. So reflecting on my time was absolutely essential in my experience abroad.
When I was in Ecuador, we had a lot of group reflections, too, to process. Within so many reflections, you hear so many thoughts of others. I would listen and see how a friend’s thoughts played into mine, and I think I carried with me a lot of other people’s thoughts and comments. I totally believe that you are who you surround yourself with, and hearing the shared thoughts of others really has made me who I am. It continues to help shape and inform a lot of my decisions today.
How would you describe the responsibility you were given as an undergrad at SCU?
I think in El Salvador, they really left it up to each of us to make most of our days in the community, so I was really responsible for doing what I found interesting. What I enjoyed doing in the medical clinic was shadowing the nurses and helping them with their patients and then additionally spending time in the physical therapy office. The physical therapists went to the community I visited every other Monday, running a public health program for the kids and also for the adults. So I was able to customize my experience in the clinic to fit what I was interested in observing in the community, such as public health, nutrition, education.
What sort of support did you get along the way?
At Santa Clara, my Professor Elizabeth Dahlhoff, who was my research professor and my advisor, really helped pushed me to go to El Salvador, which I think has had a huge impact and was one of the reasons why I applied for a Fulbright. And then while in El Salvador, the program directors, Kevin and Trena Yonkers-Talz, also made a huge impact on my life. Also while at Santa Clara, Lori Durako, she worked in the Center for Student Involvement, was a very big support and mentor for me throughout school when I worked there, and then just in my application to Fulbright. And Dr. Miller, of course, was also great and supportive.
In El Salvador, I would teach English lessons to the group of kids probably every other week. We had brought books to read, and one day I left a book on the table, which was in Spanish. I went to do something else and then returned, and one girl, her name was Ana Maria, was still sitting under the tree and at the table reading this book even though a lot of her friends had gone off to play. That day is just such a visual representation to me of what I hope education can be. I could see a spark in her and saw her desire to learn, not just English ,but to read more and learn more. I think just seeing that gave me a lot of hope and a lot of drive and passion to try and use the skills that I have to instill that hope and that passion in others.