She can read and write in Spanish and can chat about the news in Japanese, but the opportunity to teach English is what’s bringing recent grad Giovanna Perricone ’19 to Korea this fall. A 2019 winner of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program, Perricone aims to work in elementary education at the intersection of special education and foreign language. Korea is one of the few Fulbright locations that offers elementary education, making it an ideal fit for her career ambitions. But that’s not all that led the psychology major and foreign languages minor to travel nearly 6,000 miles away.
“Korea is also one of the only countries I know of through the Fulbright program in which I can live with a host family. This would be the best way to learn the culture,” she says. Perricone lived in Japan with a host family before college and spent a semester abroad in Chile during her junior year at Scripps. “Staying with a host family is a way to have an authentic experience of the culture. It’s also better for language-learning purposes,” she continues.
Perricone’s interest in education stems from her observations of students’ experiences in special education classrooms. “Knowing students in what are officially called ‘emotionally disturbed classrooms,’ I saw how they are stigmatized and how insensitive this naming is,” she reflects. Once at Scripps, Perricone seized the opportunity to gain classroom experience through Professor of French Thierry Boucquey’s Foreign Language and Culture Teaching Clinic: “That class really set the course for my future,” she says. Perricone also served as a resident advisor, was a group leader with the Claremont Christian Fellowship, and worked in a special education classroom at Claremont’s Chaparral Elementary School.
In her senior thesis, Perricone explores how students formally designated as “emotionally disturbed” face resistance to inclusion in classrooms with typically developing peers on the part of general education teachers. “So much rides on how we label people,” she explains. “I wanted to study psychology and write this thesis because I’ve always thought about the brain and behavior and how to best help students. Psychology can help you in any field, but especially in education, where it’s really about people and how they behave and interact.”
Long term, Perricone plans to work in special education classrooms with non-neurotypical students. But for now, her sights are focused on making the most out of her Fulbright experience. “Korea is one of the few Fulbright countries where I could potentially renew my stay for up to three years—I might not be ready to come home after just one!”