University of Rhode Island student Wilfredo Tangui has been awarded the prestigious Fulbright fellowship to teach English in Medellín, Colombia.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards fellowships to graduating senior undergraduate students, graduate students and young professionals that allow them to study, research or teach overseas. Tangui is one of around 1,900 American students to receive the prestigious fellowship.

“I applied to [the Fulbright] because I had heard how prestigious it was,” Tangui said. “Being able to apply to a grant that allows me to live in another country after studying abroad in Japan two years ago, I thought that it would an exciting way to be able to take a year off before I go to medical school and do something that can help English language learners.”

Tangui, a pre-med student, is a biological sciences major with minors in leadership studies and Japanese. Tangui had open heart surgery when he was 12-years-old, and as a result is interested in becoming either a pediatric cardiologist or a cardiothoracic surgeon. He plans to attend medical school after he completes his teaching year in Colombia. Tangui thinks that teaching in Colombia will help him communicate when he becomes a doctor.

“When you become a physician, I think the most important thing is that physicians are there to help people, and in order to that you need to teach people how to help themselves,” Tangui said.

Tangui was part of URI’s Talent Development Program, a program that serves Rhode Island high school graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds. Tangui credits this program to helping him understand people from diverse backgrounds.

“Talent Development helped me a lot because in talent developments there’s a lot of different kinds of people from a lot of different cultures,” Tangui said. “That helps you become more empathetic with students in general and helps give a global perspective.”

Tangui also participated in the University’s Honors Program, in which he completed an Honors project in which he studied how international students feel on the URI campus. Tangui stated that being in the Honors program helped him develop his critical thinking skills and helped him understand global initiatives.

Tangui is from Providence and is the child of a Dominican father and a Guatemalan mother. However, with his parents working frequently to make ends meet, he described himself as feeling a bit separate from his Hispanic roots.

“Since I was away from my family growing up, I was kind of spread away from my Hispanic roots,” Tangui said. “The reason I chose Colombia was because I wanted to learn more about the Hispanic and Latino community. In the future when I become a doctor I want to be able to serve that community.”

Tangui is also looking forward to comparing his various experiences in different countries to what he’ll experience in Colombia.

“I’m really excited to see the cultural differences between Colombia and my Hispanic countries of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, and how I feel there, how I feel compared to my experience in Japan and if I feel a bit separate from it,” said Tangui.

When asked what he is most excited to see to when traveling to Colombia, Tangui mentioned meeting new people, learning new things and what he will bring back home to teach others about. He also expressed that he was looking forward to trying Colombian food and learning the Colombian accent.

Tangui sees the Fulbright as a representation of what he can achieve.

“I’m very proud because coming where I come from, an inner city public school and my mother being an immigrant,” Tangui said. “Getting the Fulbright gives me higher expectations of myself and helps me determine the student I want to be and the physician I want to be.”