Honors student Brian Watts of Douglasville, Georgia, who graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology in May, has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant. Watts will spend the 2011-2012 academic year in South Korea.
This will be Watts’s third visit to the country. He first traveled there in 2007, after graduating from Chapel Hill High School, with some Korean friends. “I fell in love with Korea on that trip,” he said. “I knew I wanted to go back.”
His opportunity came in 2009, when he received a grant from the UGA Honors International Scholarship Program. Through an international nonprofit, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, he arranged a summer research project on an organic farm in rural South Korea. The farm was attached to a small private school, and Watts said he quickly came to feel like part of the family there. By the time his project ended, he was already planning to return. He had also discovered that he was interested in further exploring international environmental policy and education, and began looking for ways to pursue both goals. The Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant was an ideal fit.
Watts will leave for South Korea on July 1, and will have six weeks of teacher training and language instruction before being assigned to a school. “I learned the basics of the language from my friend in high school, and I’ve taken classes here at UGA,” he said. “Being there on my own in 2009 really helped, but I’ll definitely need the refresher.” He also plans to take advantage of the opportunity to pursue language classes at the university in Seoul.
At UGA, Watts participated in the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities program for two years. He conducted soil ecology research in the laboratory of Mark Bradford, formerly assistant professor and now adjunct faculty member in the Odum School, with whom he co-authored a paper that was published in the journal Global Change Biology. After his CURO apprenticeship ended, he joined Assistant Professor Andrew Park’s laboratory, where he has worked as a volunteer research assistant for the last two years.
“Brian has been participating in two main projects in the lab,” said Park. “He’s working on studies of co-infection in wildlife and of virus evolution. He’s volunteering by his own choice - it’s his idea of fun. His work is first rate, and we have thoroughly enjoyed having him as part of the lab.”
As well as his teaching duties, Watts hopes to become involved in the community where he is assigned. An active member of the Ecology Club and the a cappella singing group the Ecotones at UGA, he is looking forward to working with local environmental groups. As for singing, he plans to continue that as well. “If nothing else, there’s always karaoke,” he said with a laugh.