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Kylie Torres '18 (center) on a beach in Taiwan.

Fulbright Flashback: Kylie Torres '18

Jun 23, 2023

One of the goals of the U.S. Fulbright Program is for its students and teachers to come away from their experiences with more of a global outlook.

The time spent fulfilling a Fulbright grant often results in life-changing experiences for those who qualify for the challenge.

Kylie Torres '18
Kylie Torres '18

Florida Southern College graduate Kylie Torres ’18 can attest to how Fulbright helped change her perspective.

After graduating with a degree in music education and a minor in psychology, Torres spent the next few years of her life teaching in Taiwan.

While there, Torres got to see first-hand the differences in education for American versus Taiwanese school children.

“The experience of moving there and living there definitely changed my life,” said Torres, who was an English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan. “Moving to Taiwan brought a new view into my global perspective. I was involved in things I wouldn’t have been otherwise. I got to work with the American Institute in Taiwan (the American Embassy). Fulbright pushed my resilience and ability to figure things out to a new level. I love teaching, but it’s not about the content, it’s about the people. That’s been informing my decisions ever since.”

Class in Session

Torres taught English to students at the National Taiwan College of Performing Arts (fifth grade through college), but also got to take part in specialized classes the school offered.

The NTCPA, in addition to the regular rigorous classes in math, literature and science, also had refined courses in performing arts that included subjects such as acrobatics, opera, and music.

Torres '18 in Taiwan.

“The structure of education in Taiwan was a little surprising,” Torres said. “While the first school I worked at was more career focused, the education system in general placed a lot of emphasis on STEM and testing. Students would have different subjects for a different number of times per week (for example, seven math classes per week, and four history classes per week). This was pretty different compared to the U.S. school systems where your schedule is pretty evenly balanced once you get to middle and high school.”

It was this glimpse into the culture in Taiwan that had the most profound effect on Torres.

The challenge of throwing herself into a totally new environment was something Torres could not pass up.

“The biggest lesson I learned from Fulbright was to take a risk,” she said. “You have to take chances and make mistakes. If you don’t take the chance, you’ll never succeed. I went into Fulbright just some random music major. I didn’t think there was anything special about myself. I didn’t think I was going to get it, but this was my chance. I had to try. I’m so thankful that I took that chance.”

FSC’s Influence

Torres has continued her journey in education, but it is slightly different than what even she envisioned.

After the COVID-19 Pandemic put her extended Fulbright grant on hold, Torres found work in Taiwan teaching English at Sky Education in Taipei City, Taiwan and then as an English Teaching Assistant back at the NTCPA while still teaching for Sky Education.

Later, Torres spent a year teaching English remotely for AmazingTalker while still living in Taiwan.

When Torres was ready to come back to the United States, she came back with an online Master of Education in Transformational Curriculum and Instruction from Florida Southern that she earned in 2021 while in Taiwan.

Now, Torres is working as an Education Coordinator for Tutor Me Education in Bakersville, N.C., which helps pair students with the right tutor to further their educational needs. 

“I was always very people focused,” Torres said. “It is about building rapport. Content is less important than what I find fulfilling in working within the field of education.”

Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Being ‘people focused’ is what drew Torres to Florida Southern.

Torres had visited Florida Southern College’s campus multiple times through a Methodist Church affiliated workshop that she attended in high school. On those trips she became very familiar with the campus and got to know some of the staff.

Staff members ended up helping her select Taiwan as her Fulbright destination.

“Dr. (Fen-Fang) Chen was amazing in knowing what to expect when moving to Taiwan,” said Torres, who also went to Taiwan with Dr. Chen on her Junior Journey. “She’s the reason I even went to Taiwan in the first place. I still periodically talk with her around the holidays.”

Torres also had high praise for retired Florida Southern College professor Michael Parks and the music department students she attended class with.

“Professor Parks was really invested in his students,” Torres said. “It was a ‘tough love’ relationship that we all needed to be prepared for when we stepped into the classroom.

“What I liked the most about FSC were the relationships I was able to have with my cohorts. Our department was small, so we all spent so much time together and we got very close. The relationships I was able to build at FSC were really great. Music is not an easy degree to finish in four years, but we were able to do it because we had each other.”