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Latin American Studies Major wins a Fulbright

Chelsea Ramsey, a 2023 Latin American Studies graduating senior, wins a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Peru. The Fulbright Scholars program offers awards in more than 135 countries for U.S. citizens to teach, conduct research and carry out professional projects around the world. We interviewed Chelsea about how her Latin American Studies degree encouraged her to apply for the Fulbright Scholars program.

Why did you decide to enroll at UNC, and how has your experience here been in retrospect?
Since I grew up here, I actually didn’t want to go to UNC initially. But—and I kind of hate to say it—UNC was just the best financial option for me. I’m really glad I enrolled, though, because it has been really wonderful, and I probably would not have discovered the path that I’m on now if I hadn’t. I was originally a neuroscience major, and I only changed focus because of a few really key people at UNC.

What initially drew you to the LTAM major, and why have you stuck with it over time?
Starting college, I knew that I liked history and literature and that I wanted to take classes relating to Hispanic literature because I was fluent in Spanish. So, when I got here, I took a first-year seminar with professor Miguel La Serna about Latin American revolutions, and this class sparked a deep interest in Latin American history for me. I thought we were studying something really exciting and really unique.

One time after class, professor La Serna pulled me aside and told me, “That was really good; have you ever thought about pursuing a career in history?” And I said, “No, I kind of want to go to med school; I want to be a doctor.” And he said, “No, you should forget all that. You were meant to be a historian.” I didn’t immediately switch after that, but I did start reconsidering what I truly love to do and what I was really good at, which turned out to be the humanities. So I started taking more history classes, and then I decided I loved Latin American history specifically, especially seeing literature intersect with history. I’ve been with the major ever since.

Who has been your favorite professor? How about favorite class?
Two of my favorite professors have been Miguel La Serna and Juan Carlos Espitia González. My favorite class was taught by Juan Carlos too—one focused on Latin American poetry. It was an excellent class; Juan Carlos was really enthusiastic about teaching and he made the topic so much fun. I really loved all my courses at UNC, though. If you take one through the Spanish or English department, I don’t think you can really go wrong. There are so many excellent professors.

What project are you proudest of having completed while at UNC?
A while back, I took the LTAM capstone class, which lets you do an independent study project; I was the only student in the class that semester, so I could do whatever I wanted. I chose to research about the queer history of Peru—the history of LGBTQ individuals and fluid sexuality and gender in that country. I ended up writing a thirty-page paper on it, and I learned a lot of fascinating things about how Peruvians approach sexuality, how they’re fighting for LGBTQ rights currently, how events of the past inform how people view queer individuals today. That was probably the project I am proudest of in retrospect.

What’s it been like earning the Fulbright, and what are your plans now that you’ve received it?
Getting the Fulbright was a huge shock, but it felt really good, like my four years of hard work had paid off. I definitely couldn’t have done it without the help of many, many people here at UNC. Now that I have it, next year starting in March I will be traveling to Peru. They haven’t told me where I’m going to be placed yet, but I’m going to be teaching vocational students English, and I’m really looking forward to it. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to go abroad, learn so much more about the places I have studied, and actually get to experience the culture in real time. In the meantime, I think I’m going to start applying for grad schools. I want to pursue a PhD in history so I can teach at the collegiate level once I’m back in the States.

Any closing remarks?
First and foremost, I’d like to thank ISA, and I’d like to thank Beatriz for being such a great advisor. She’s been so flexible while helping me these last four years, as well as really kind and welcoming. I also want to say that the LTAM major has been such a fun and enlightening experience for me. I would definitely encourage anyone to pursue their interests and do what they love to do.

Chelsea sitting in a chair holding up the book
Chelsea receiving an ISA graduation gift, a vintage copy of "Broad and Alien is the World" by Ciro Alegría.