Jack Corby ‘22 expands his horizons as a Fulbright Scholar teaching in Bulgaria, and finds his passion for education and community engagement.
Jack Corby ’22 already has already built a diverse and extensive network of professional and personal connections as a young alum. He credits these connections in part to Elon’s engaged learning experience.
Corby chose to attend Elon after researching universities during his junior year of high school. He knew that he wanted a smaller school that offered Division I athletics and provided the opportunity to try new things. He preferred to be closer to his mother’s side of the family, so he wanted to go somewhere south of Washington, D.C.
“Elon checked all of the boxes and gave me scholarships to attend, so it was an easy choice,” said Corby.
Corby received an Elon Engagement Scholarship, one of several scholarships that is funded by annual gifts of any size from alumni, parents and other donors. These donations are combined to provide scholarships that help students like Corby attend Elon without the burden of high student debt.
While at Elon, Corby majored in policy studies and was part of the Legal Professional Scholars on campus. Outside of academics, he worked for residence life and the football team, participated in his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, and even served as Elon’s student body president during his senior year.
Corby knew that following graduation he wanted to do something big that would expand his horizons and his network. He wanted to gain teaching experience and also live abroad, and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offered an opportunity to do both.
“I studied policy studies while at Elon but found a passion for education later in my undergraduate career, so I wanted to capitalize on that and find opportunities to gain more experience within the education world. I also realized that after COVID, and not being able to move around much, traveling abroad would be a fantastic experience that I wanted to do sooner rather than later,” explained Corby.
For these reasons, he applied for to the Fulbright program during his senior year and was accepted to teach English to high school students in a small town in Bulgaria. Just a few months after graduation he began his work with the program, making a quick move to the town of Kardzhali in August 2022.
“My time as a Fulbright has been nothing short of amazing,” Corby said. “My cohort is 38 Americans, each in a different town or city. I teach roughly 20 hours per week and cover a wide range of subjects, catering my lessons to my students’ various English levels.”
His favorite part about teaching in Bulgaria, and something that surprised him, is the similarities he has seen across people of different cultures despite being 5,000 miles from home.
“There is way more tying us together than separating us,” he said, “My students in rural Bulgaria were not that different from my friends and me when we were in high school. Certain things transcend different cultures. My students are also addicted to their phones, care a lot about their appearances and love TikTok — things that American high schoolers can relate to.”
Corby has had the opportunity to coach the English Speech and Debate Team at the school, something he has found really rewarding. He started this team with support from a national program that is managed by a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Fulbright program and the U.S. Embassy.
“I was able to recruit 31 students to join the team, way more than I had expected,” he said. “No one on the team had ever debated before, but we ended up finishing ninth out of 61 teams in the national tournament and two of our members were awarded regional awards.”
Outside of his teaching and work through the Fulbright program, he has most enjoyed the opportunity to travel within the European Union, something he wouldn’t have had the chance to do otherwise. He has visited 11 countries in Europe and Asia for several days each, which has allowed him the time to dive into the culture, see the main sites and experience life there. His favorite cities were Oxford, Istanbul and Tel Aviv.
Although Corby hasn’t been out of school long, he says he has already has benefitted greatly from his broad range of experiences at Elon. His internships helped set him on the right track and grow professionally. While at Elon, he worked with a nonprofit based in St. Louis that helps change local politics. He worked at the Open Door Clinic of Alamance County through the Campus Alamance summer Internship Program. Both programs gave him more real-world experience outside of the classroom.
“The most rewarding part of my journey thus far has been getting to work with and learn from so many different types of colleagues, educators and people,” he said. “I feel so fortunate that my career and Elon have enabled me to meet such a diverse pool of people, all of whom have taught me something along the way.”
He credits Elon for preparing him for life after graduation. He appreciates the hands-on learning environment that Elon fosters, an environment that taught him to analyze things inside and outside of the classroom. He also appreciates that Elon taught him to be an active citizen and be engaged in his community, both values that have served him well during his time with the Fulbright program.
“I am very proud of Elon and all of the alumni that have walked under the oaks and throughout the famed buildings that we have on campus. Elon’s successful alumni base speaks to the university’s pursuit of excellence and the impact that our alma mater had on us, using what we learned to change the world. Elon has educators and administrators that care about the students and see them as more than just a person sitting behind a desk in a classroom. The community environment allows us to take risks, something that benefitted me and countless others,” explained Corby.
As for his future, Corby hopes to pursue a career in higher education following his Fulbright work. His ultimate goal would be to serve as a university president or chancellor one day, a goal that was solidified from his time as student body president working closely with President Connie Ledoux Book and members of Senior Staff.
“That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something I will always cherish. The work I saw them do every day for Elon is something I eventually want to do for a great university, too,” Corby said.