Senior English/education major selected for Fulbright in Greece

Faith Simonini ’24, of Cumberland, to spend year teaching English in Athens

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 15, 2024 – Faith Simonini first arrived at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston grateful for the opportunity, but wondering if she was missing out on the chance to study out of state. Three short years later URI has allowed her to expand her horizons — and then some.

Simonini came to URI because it was affordable. “I had mixed feelings initially,” she admits. “I wanted to get out of Rhode Island and thought doors had closed for me, although it was economical. Now I’m happy to be here.”

Simonini says that her URI classes challenged her and the extracurriculars helped her find a sense of self. “URI faculty instilled a sense of confidence in me,” she said.

In March the Cumberland resident learned that she received a prestigious Fulbright Award which she’ll use to study and work in Greece in the year ahead, one of the most competitive Fulbright destination countries.

At URI, one of Simonini’s (center) many activities included teaching yoga for Campus Recreation. She says that Campus Rec helped her learn how to navigate college, gain autonomy and find resources.

As Simonini’s previous travel experiences were confined to New England, the chance to spend a year in Greece is a dream come true, one that’s becoming more real as she works through her pre-departure checklist. For a student who didn’t think she could study abroad, to be selected to live and work in Greece is the perfect way to cap her URI career. Airfare, housing, and travel insurance are provided by Fulbright; she’ll even get a stipend for her time there.

To date, 47 URI students and alumni have been selected to receive Fulbright awards to conduct research, study, or teach English overseas. Simonini will serve as a Fulbright Fellow at Athens College-Hellenic American Educational Foundation in Athens, helping students improve their English, reading and writing skills, while teaching them about American culture, traditions, and current events. She will also be tasked with serving as a coach and mentor to the school’s large Forensics Club, drawing upon her own background as a top high school debater.

Simonini will arrive in Greece with some teaching experience, having served as a residential academic mentor (RAM) for first-year students at URI. She started student-teaching in her first year at URI, and has served as a substitute teacher across Rhode Island, in every grade from preK to 12, and completed her student-teaching at Narragansett Elementary this spring. Faith will graduate summa cum laude in May, completing bachelor’s degrees in English and elementary education in only three years.

“Faith loves to interact and is comfortable speaking with people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life,” says Kathleen Maher of URI’s fellowships office. “She will make a terrific representative of the United States.”

Early journeys

Before she ever left Rhode Island or applied for a passport, Simonini traveled, as many do, through books. As a child, she fell in love with Greek mythology. Her connection to contemporary Greece expanded when she arrived at URI and met one of her closest friends whose family emigrated here from the Mediterranean nation. Visiting with them, Simonini relished hearing stories of life in Greece today.

“We would sit outside, eat souvlaki, and listen to his mother’s stories,” Simonini says.

Now Simonini is taking her interest and appreciation and passion for Greek culture to the country itself, to experience it all firsthand.

After her Fulbright year, Simonini hopes to further her education by getting a master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) to teach English-language learner students. She is interested in social justice in education.

A first grade classroom in Providence’s Silver Lake neighborhood was Simonini’s first placement for her first practicum experience in her first year at URI; she still thinks about the students she met there.

“I loved those kids,” she says. “I feel like kids in urban schools are often written off so early in life, as if they won’t succeed or they can’t have a quality school experience.”

Teaching students to communicate is the goal of all of her work.

“Language is the cornerstone of not only a thriving society, but an empowered individual,” Simonini says. “I am fortunate to have found a love for language at a very young age. That is why I have dedicated my life to sharing its beauty with others, instilling that love in children.”


A first-generation college student herself, Simonini believes that positive connections are one the most important aspects of education. During her practicum, she ate and talked with students on her lunch break and she’s looking forward to doing the same with students in Greece.

She says that teachers who noticed and helped her in her own school journey inspired her to try to be that kind of teacher for students coming after her.

Professor Ann Salzarulo comments, “Students and learners positively respond to her clarity and authentically caring presence. Faith embodies our nation’s ideals of friendship, competence, harmony, equity, excellence, and a strong work ethic. She will do the U.S. proud.”

Fulbright awards are awarded to U.S. students as seniors, young alumni, or graduate students representing various areas of study. Those interested in applying for the next round of scholarships, or other scholarship/study programs, are encouraged to visit URI’s Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities or contact Kathleen Maher ( for information.