Kira Harding

Kira Harding TeachingKira Harding teaches English in India.

USF Alumna Teaches English in India through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program

In 2016, Kira Harding studied abroad in India through an educational program organized by the University of South Florida (USF) School of Social Work. The study abroad experience gave Kira the opportunity to interact with Indian children and experience daily life in India. After two weeks in the country, she realized she was ready for a more immersive study abroad experience.

Upon her return to USF, the cultural immersion she experienced while in India inspired her to learn more about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program English Teaching Assistantship (ETA). In 2018 she applied for, and was awarded, a Fulbright ETA to India.

Kira, an Honors College senior majoring in cell and molecular biology from Miami, Florida, had a wealth of experiences that made her uniquely suited to teach English in India. She participated in a peer mentoring orchestra program, and was a founding member and president of the USF Da Bull Reed Consortium. Kira served as a camp counselor for the USF Double Reed Camp, a camp designed for students to improve their performance and reed-making skills.

Teaching English abroad was a much more expansive role than she imagined. “I’m realizing that I am more than just a foreigner from the U.S. or an English teacher in India.  I’ve become a friend, sister and aunt,” she says. “It’s way more than I ever expected, and the most incredible and rewarding experience of my time here.” 

During the Fulbright application process, Kira worked closely with the Office of National Scholarships (ONS) and the USF Student Fulbright Program Advisor (FPA), Ms. Lauren Chambers. “ONS helped every step of the way with writing workshops and individualized feedback on countless essay rewrites,” she says. Attending USF’s first annual Fulbright Day was also immensely helpful in preparing her to go to India. “During the event, past Fulbright recipients shared personal stories of what it was like for them to live abroad and work on their different projects,” says Kira.  “It made my own trip less of an unknown.”    

In addition to obtaining valuable advice from previous Fulbright awardees, she learned important lessons during the application process. “I did quite a bit of research on teaching English in India, including history, current practices, and educational policies,” Kira says. “It helped me work out the specifics of why I wanted to teach English in India, what I could add to the practice, and how it could benefit my students. The ONS process taught me how to integrate it all together and best present myself.”     

Kira advises potential applicants to be intentional about their application process, especially when selecting a host country. “A national scholarship like Fulbright not only impacts you as a potential recipient, but also the people you will work with while in your host country,” she says. “Making sure it’s a good match is really important for everyone involved.”

This story is featured in the 2019 edition of Legacies.