ECU English major Rachel Castro was awarded a Fulbright grant for travel to Germany. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Fulbright program selects ECU senior for Berlin experience

By Joy Holster

ECU News Services

East Carolina University senior Rachel Castro of Falls Church, Va., will travel to Germany in December through the German-American Fulbright Commission’s Berlin Capital Program, which offers an opportunity for students and young professionals in journalism to learn firsthand about German culture and media.

Castro was one of only 15 participants selected nationwide and the only participant from North Carolina. ECU communication major Brittany Bates was chosen as an alternate.

Castro will visit Berlin Dec. 3 through Dec. 12, where she will explore German politics and culture, with attention to how those factors shape the society, German-American relations and the media. Participants will attend seminars, presentations and site visits to selected print and broadcast media outlets as well as key political and cultural institutions. A day trip by train to Hamburg, Germany is also planned.

“I am excited about developing a network with fellow students and especially the professional journalists on this trip, while at the same time learning from their experiences,” Castro said.  

“It's a great setting for someone who would like to develop a mentor relationship with someone who is already in the business,” she said.

Castro is driven by a love of reading and writing. She will graduate in May with a major in English and a minor in communication studies with a concentration in journalism. Castro polished her journalism skills as an intern at ECU’s Office of News and Communication Service, where she published numerous news articles for local media and university publications.

Her passion for the written word grew from watching the struggles both her parents endured as non-native English speakers. Castro’s father Romulo from Bogota, Columbia, and mother Beatriz from Cuenca, Ecuador, moved to the United States when they were in their early 20s.

Castro’s first language was Spanish, the language spoken at home during her early years; she learned to speak English fluently in pre-school.

Castro learned about the Fulbright program from ECU School of Communication professor Dr. Cindy Elmore, who taught Castro and Bates in a feature writing course. Elmore said that Castro showed promise as a journalist, along with interest in international journalism.

“Not only is she a very talented writer, but she also has wonderful natural instincts for journalism,” Elmore said.

“And I knew she wanted to travel abroad. I’m just so proud of her,” she said.

The program benefits include transportation, lodging, health insurance, meals and local travel.

“The only thing I will have to pay for is shopping for family and friends’ gifts,” Castro said.

While this is not Castro’s first international travel, it will be the first time she has visited Germany. In 2010, Castro traveled to London with a study abroad program offered through the ECU English Department. She has also traveled on occasion to Columbia and Ecuador.  

Castro plans to teach English in Budapest next fall and hopes to obtain an internship this summer in New York City.

“I hope to expand my personal global awareness on this trip,” Castro said.  “To be a good writer, it’s important to be open-minded.”


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