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magali lapu, france, 2019-2020

Fulbright Year: 2019-20
Country: France
Proposal Type: English Teaching Assistant
UGA Undergraduate Major: French and International Affairs
Graduation Date: Spring 2019
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

While Magali Lapu will spend her Fulbright experience teaching English in France, her students can be assured there will be much more in the curriculum than becoming familiar with a new language.

“I hope to teach and mentor students who will be expected to embrace their identities, grow in cultural humility, and develop writing and language in the English learning environment as weapons against social injustice in their communities,” she says.

Magali will teach at Lycée Robert Doisneau in Vaulx-en-Velin, in Grand Lyon and will have a particularly memorable experience as she will work in an under-resourced high school that apparently carries quite a stigma as her students come from lower-income families facing social problems at home and in the community. While some colleagues are wary of such situations, Magali says this is exactly why she pursued a Fulbright scholarship.

“For me, the most important part about applying for a Fulbright in France was giving back to underprivileged populations in a country that widely ignores racial injustice and its intersection with some other aspects of injustice,” she says. “I don’t just want to be a teacher, but a mentor to youth preparing for some of the most formative years in their life after leaving high school.”

Magali, a native of Brussels, says she plans to introduce her students to American culture with a survey that’s considerably different from what they may be expecting.

“I seek to inspire French high school students with a non-traditional perspective on American history through the stories of resilient minority groups who influenced creative arts culture in France – specifically, African-American expatriates seeking refuge and opportunity in France to pursue their craft in segregated times in the United States.”

“These tales come from a community which exemplifies generational resilience, and they continue to impact me in a way that I am sure can touch the hearts of many French teens who are no strangers to life in the margins.”

Magali, who traveled to France to take part in a Humanity in Action international conference in 2018 and spent a study abroad summer there in 2016, says she wanted to serve as an ETA in France because of the country’s indifference to race.

“Coming from a society in which race is at the forefront of public and political discourse, I was stunned at how France does not collect race statistics and was intrigued by the way French youth understood their culture, race, and nationality,” she says. “In being an ETA, I hope to bring the conversations I am used to having to a French context, allowing myself to reflect on the politics of identity in a colorblind system through the insight of my potential students.”

Magali’s activism manifested itself in many ways while on the UGA campus as she served as the political action and education chair for the UGA chapter of the NAACP and was a leader of UGA’s Black Affairs Council. She was also director of diversity and inclusion for the Student Government Association and she served as customer experience manager for outgoing global exchanges for AIESEC at UGA, among many other initiatives.

She also worked part-time as a class advocate and resident assistant for UGA Housing and worked on voter registration drives and community forums for the Economic Justice Coalition of Athens. Magali also somehow found time to be part of the iconic Pamoja Multicultural Dance Company as a hip-hop dancer.

Urging students to join her in venturing from their own personal boxes will be a priority of Magali’s Fulbright experience.

“I hope to encourage youth seeking to step outside of their comfort zone to embrace their identities while developing my own competencies as a proponent for international exchange and cross-cultural understanding,” she says. “I hope to heighten my cultural sensitivity necessary to guide my future international advocacy and service to communities different from my own.”