F&M Stories

Curiosity Leads Kalida Gawon '23 to Taiwan Teaching Fellowship

Franklin & Marshall graduates have a long history of securing prestigious fellowships and research opportunities across the globe. In this series, we spotlight alumni living, teaching and learning abroad. The World Needs Diplomats. Will you be next? 

How did a biology class lead Franklin & Marshall graduate Kalida Gawon ’23 to rural Taiwan? 

She encountered a Taiwanese case study and was impressed by their attention to female reproductive health. But the more she researched the county, “the more reasons I found to visit, learn and engage in their way of life.”

Gawon's curiosity led to a current Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) at two elementary schools in southern Taiwan. She is one of 11 F&M young alumni awarded Fulbright fellowships in 2023. Fulbright is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

“Teaching in rural Pingtung County highlighted the power of connecting with people through hobbies, even in the absence of a common language,” she said. 

She has bridged the language gap by joining students in Chinese calligraphy, judo and badminton, as well as interacting with the Taiwanese community. 

“In my free time, you can find me spending time with local friends and the church community, traveling or line dancing with the elderly ladies at the park,” she said. 

Kalida Gawon ’23 with students in rural Taiwan

Kalida Gawon ’23
  • Fulbright location: Pingtung County, Taiwan 
  • Hometown: Miami
  • Double major: Biology and Africana studies
Why did you choose your specific Fulbright location? 

Unlike most countries I've been exposed to, my interest in Taiwan began while reading a case study for a project in Developmental Biology class. It was one of the few papers published about endometriosis and I was impressed by their attention to female reproductive health. The more I researched the country, the more reasons I found to visit, learn and engage in their way of life. I was impressed by Taiwan's commitment to keeping its indigenous languages and culture alive. It felt like a warm embrace of diversity. As an avid gardener, I loved how they implemented initiatives to teach agriculture in schools, showing kids to appreciate nature. 

Taiwan's focus on nurturing global citizens who can embrace their unique backgrounds resonated deeply with me. It reminded me of my experience growing up in my parents’ homeland (Nigeria), where I realized I was disconnected from some cultural aspects, like knowing how to count in the native language. Engaging in discussions about cultural preservation and talking with friends who were past ETAs encouraged me to select Taiwan. 

"F&M felt like a place committed to providing a holistic experience because the current students highlighted that they felt their identities weren't defined by their majors."

Kalida Gawon '23

Why did you choose to attend F&M?

I chose F&M as a Posse Scholar because of its location, strong STEM program and its community-focused atmosphere. It felt like a place committed to providing a holistic experience because the current students highlighted that they felt their identities weren't defined by their majors. At the time, I knew I wanted a smaller community where I could establish a deeper relationship with those I interacted with. I am grateful for my F&M experience.

Related Articles

March 28, 2024

Mentorship: What F&M Does Differently

What does success look like to F&M students? Mentorship is one of many ways that F&M offers support beyond typical career counseling.

March 22, 2024

Alumni Author Uses the Power of Personal Narrative

Lyzette Wanzer '88 will return to campus on Wednesday, March 27, to discuss her book “Trauma, Tresses, and Truth: Untangling Our Hair Through Personal Narratives” at 7 p.m. in Roschel Theater. A book signing and reception will follow the discussion.

March 19, 2024

Why Give? Six Inspiring Stories

As Day of Giving begins, explore six recent stories that showcase the philanthropic spirit of Diplomats worldwide.