Former Helena student named Fulbright grant recipient at Drake University

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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By EMILY REED | Special to the Reporter

HELENA – Matthew Jordan has always enjoyed studying languages. It was this love that compelled him to pursue learning more about the Japanese language, which he has done since his time at Drake University in Iowa.

“When I made it to the college level, I knew I wanted to branch out beyond what my primary education offered and study something that was not a romance language,” Jordan said. “I was already a big fan of Japanese pop culture growing up and had read a lot of history about pre-modern China and Japan.”

This week, the Helena native was awarded a Japanese study/research grant through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for the 2023-2034 academic year.

Jordan was one of three Drake students who were recognized as a semifinalist for the Fulbright program.

The program is one of the most competitive international exchange programs in the nation, according to information provided by Drake University.

Semifinalists are applicants who have advanced past the preliminary application. If chosen as finalists, which Jordan was, they will receive a federally-funded grant and spend a year in their chosen country teaching English or conducting research.

Currently, Jordan studies philosophy and religion with a Japanese minor.

After hearing he had been selected as a recipient of the grant, Jordan said he was elated.

“I have been working on my application non-stop since last summer,” Jordan said. “I only submitted it in October, so it was a pretty nerve-wracking process to follow that much work up with about three months of total silence while we waited for results.”

Now, Jordan is setting his sights to the future where he will spend time in Japan for about 10 months at a host university, while he conducts his own research.

“This will be an amazing jumpstart to my academic career,” Jordan said. “I intend to pursue a doctorate in East Asian religious and philosophical studies, so the opportunity to spend 10 months in Japan conducting my own research is genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an undergraduate like me.”

Jordan originally heard about the Fulbright program through a classmate who applied and was accepted to a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant position in Taiwan.

“From that point, I contacted Drake’s Fulbright advisor, Professor Karen Leroux, who was absolutely amazing,” Jordan said. “She mentored me through every step of the process and made things absolutely as smooth as possible. I wouldn’t have managed it all without her constant assistance.”

Leroux said in a release about the Fulbright program that it is a big achievement to be recommended as a semifinalist, and ultimately a finalist.

“It means their applications convinced the U.S. based selection committees that they are equipped for the challenges of completing their proposed projects and representing the U.S. abroad,” Leroux said in a release.

Drake University has maintained a strong legacy in the Fulbright program, being named a ‘Top Producing Institution’ 10 times in the past 19 years.

Jordan still has to work out the logistics of when he will actually travel to Japan, and is awaiting more details of what his grant covers, but he remains excited for the opportunity that is on the horizon.

“I hope to enjoy myself,” Jordan said. “Japan is an absolutely beautiful place with so much rich history. I hope I will get the chance to polish up my conversational Japanese, and most of all I hope I will get to immerse myself in my local area and make some lasting connections both socially and academically that I will be able to have always, even after I return from Japan.”

Additionally, Jordan is hopeful to have the opportunity to see Buddhist and Shinto sites all across the country of Japan.

“I am also looking forward to just getting to live in a totally new setting for a while,” Jordan said. “It is a pretty big move from Helena to Japan, and I am excited to get involved in clubs and teams from my host university, and to have the opportunity to brush up on my photography in an absolutely breathtaking place.”