Special Feature by Rider Sports Information
LAWRENCEVILLE, New Jersey, April 2. AND now for something completely different.
When Rider University senior Ericka Kriedel graduates in May, instead of going home to Central Connecticut she is heading to Southeast Asia.
The Wethersfield, Connecticut native and captain of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champion Swimming & Diving team, Kriedel has obtained a Teaching Fulbright Scholarship to study in Thailand.
"I picked Thailand because I figured it would be completely different from anything I've ever known," said Kriedel, a two-time MAAC All-Academic team member who majors in English at Rider. "I wanted to learn a language and learn about a culture that I knew nothing about."
"Ericka has an extremely positive attitude about life," said Rider swimming & diving head coach Steve Fletcher. "Her enthusiasm for travel and new experiences has no doubt led her to this goal of earning a Fulbright appointment. It is a perfect fit for her, and her coaches and team mates are very proud of her accomplishment."
"This is a great honor for the University, the Department of Athletics, and Ericka," said Dr. Jonathan Husch, Rider's Faculty Athletic Representative. "Once again, this reinforces the fact that the academic performance of Rider University student-athletes is taken just as seriously as their athletic success and that one does not preclude the other. What Ericka has accomplished is a tribute to her hard work and dedication, and one that the entire University community is justifiably proud. I know that there will be many others who will follow in her footsteps in the years to come."
"There are two different types of Fulbright Scholarships," said Kriedel, who won MAAC and ECAC gold medals this winter swimming on Rider's record setting 200 free relay team and won MAAC silver in the 100 backstroke, "one is to do research and one is to teach English." Kriedel will be doing the latter.
The Fulbright Program, the U.S. Government's flagship international exchange program, is designed to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries."
In the Fulbright Program participants are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential and are given the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
"I was delighted to hear the news that Ericka Kriedel has been awarded a Fulbright," said Dr. Donald Steven, the Rider Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. "She is a wonderful young scholar and a fine athlete. I am also very pleased to note that Ericka is the third Rider student to receive a Fulbright since 2008."
Approximately 7,500 grants are awarded annually. "South America, Europe and Asia were options," Kriedel said. "I speak Spanish and French, but not fluently. I thought it would be more challenging to go to Asia. I take Chinese right now, and I know a lot of Chinese culture, just from living in America."
In Thailand, an independent Buddhist country west of Vietnam and east of India, Kriedel will teach middle school Thai children English.
"Before I start teaching I will attend a four week language and culture enhancement program in Thailand in October and I start teaching in January for one year," Kriedel said.
Since 1947, the Fulbright Scholar Program has awarded nearly 45,000 grants to support teaching and research in countries around the world. Today it includes active programs in more than 125 countries.
"It pays for practically everything," Kriedel said. "I will live with a host family. Hopefully they will speak some English."
Kriedel was not so lucky with her first ‘host' family last summer.
"I lived with a host family in Costa Rica and they didn't speak any English," Kriedel said. "Knowing Spanish really helped me there."
Kriedel taught English for three weeks in Costa Rica last summer as something to boost her resume. "There was a section on the Fulbright application that asked about experiences abroad, experiences that were longer than one week," Kriedel said. "I back-packed in Europe for two weeks but that was my only experience more than one week, so it didn't look like I had much experience abroad. Being able to say I lived abroad for three weeks really added to my chances of getting the Fulbright."
Kriedel went to Costa Rica to teach English. "I was teaching a very informal class at a community center to people who would just stop in for an occasional lesson," Kriedel said. "Nothing really structured. It was very relaxed. There were other volunteers there doing other things besides teaching. The woman running the program asked me if I wanted to take a half hour bus ride each day into the middle of nowhere to teach English to a couple of doctors at a free medial clinic, so I did. It was really nice."
Not every Rider student-athlete envisions a Fulbright scholarship in their future. "Dr. Duque sent me an e-mail about different scholarship opportunities," Kriedel said. Dr. Adriano Duque is a professor in Rider's Foreign Language & Literature Department. "One asked if you were interested in teaching English abroad after you graduate and I had always been interested in doing that, so that caught my attention. I did a lot of research on it and decided that was what I wanted to do after graduation."
"Ericka is our first student to win a Fulbright to a non-European country," Duque said. "This is a wonderful opportunity and may open the door to a career in anything from teaching to developing a career with the UN."
There were two ‘cuts' in making the selection for the Scholarship. "The American Embassy picks 16 and the country picks the final eight," Kriedel said. "I found out in January that my application was sent to Thailand and I just found out after Spring Break that I actually won the whole scholarship. I was very excited when I received the letter, hugging all of my friends and roommates."
Traveling abroad was always something Kriedel aspired to do. "My high school French/Spanish teacher talked about traveling and said I would love studying abroad," Kriedel said. "I would have but it was very hard to do with swimming, where the season crosses both semesters and the training during the summer. She had all of these great stories and I always wanted to do what she did."
After graduating from Wethersfield High School Kriedel had to choose between Northeastern University in Boston and Rider. "I wanted to go to a small school based on athletic programs," Kriedel said. "I really liked the Rider team; I thought I could fit in. I liked Fletch (head coach Steve Fletcher) and his coaching style."
At Rider Kriedel made a major impression in the pool after less than a year. "My freshman year I came in swimming a minute point (more than 1:00.0, less than 1:01) in the backstroke and I had been trying to break a minute for two years," Kriedel remembered. "I knew with the training here I would, so in my first opportunity, at the MAAC Championships, I turned to the girls in my relay and said ‘I'm going to break a minute.' and they were like, ‘okay, sure' and I did and they were really impressed. After that I began swimming on the relays. I look back on that as a big achievement for me."
"She is a committed athlete in the gym and the pool who always responds to a challenge in training," Fletcher said. "Her dramatic improvement in swimming throughout her four year career at Rider is directly related not only to her willingness to be coached but also to her attitude as a self-starter. She is a student of our sport and has shown initiative time and again in making conscious improvements in her technical and training habits in order to reach her goals."
Kriedel had a lot of achievements in swimming, a career that began at six years old and is about to come to an end, but not quite yet. "It won't seem like it is over until my team starts practicing again and I don't have to go anymore," Kriedel said in denial. "I'm still part of the team right now. It will hit me in the fall."
In the fall Ericka's swimming career ends and her year of teaching in Thailand begins, and she is already making travel plans for beyond that.
"I read about a scholarship you can apply for if you are already a Fulbright Scholar," Kriedel said, "for an internship at the UNESCO World Heritage Headquarters in Paris. I've always wanted to live in Paris. I would really like to apply for that."
Ericka Kriedel. A Rider student, a varsity swimmer, and now a Fulbright Scholar. Three things that apparently are not completely different.