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Catonsville native, UMBC graduate, headed abroad as a Fulbright scholar

Catonsville native, UMBC graduate, headed abroad as a Fulbright scholar
Morgan Zepp, a Catonsville native and graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is headed to Lithuania after she graduates as a part of the Fulbright Student Program. (Cody Boteler / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

For the past five years, someone searching for Catonsville native Morgan Zepp, 21, could have looked at Objects Found, the antique store on Egges Lane where she’s held a part-time job since she was 16.

Store owner Reggie Sajauskas said she never had to be concerned about Zepp being at work for her Sunday shifts, because she was “so dependable.”

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But starting this September, things will almost certainly change at Objects Found, because Zepp will be an ocean away, helping teach English in Lithuania.

“I’ve already missed having her around,” Sajauskas said.

Zepp, a soon-to-be alumna of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is one of 8,000 students nationwide selected to be a Fulbright Scholar — and one of eight from the university.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, under the U.S. Department of Education, provides opportunities for research, study and teaching abroad for recent college graduates or graduate students. Most funding for the program comes from a congressional appropriation.

“They were asking for someone who has a lot of background in service,” Zepp said. “They were looking for someone who maybe studied English, had a background in teaching, but was also willing to be flexible and be a jack-of-all-trades kind of thing.”

Those are the kinds of experiences Zepp sought out and participated in as she went through college. She majored in English and global studies, with minors in Spanish and writing. She is set to graduate magna cum laude on May 24.

Zepp said she chose to apply for an English teaching assistant position in Lithuania because she thought she fit the program’s criteria for that position in that country perfectly.

From her time working at UMBC’s writing center, Zepp said she has some experience with English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) instruction. The Fulbright program is providing her a stipend and covers room and board expenses, she said, but she hasn’t gotten the details on everything yet.

In addition to reliably working her shift at Objects Found, Zepp studied abroad for a semester in Cuzco, Peru, worked as editor of UMBC’s creative arts journal and spent time volunteering in Baltimore County and the city.

She was director of the Reach Initiative at UMBC, a program that offers support and tutoring for high school girls in Baltimore City who are interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering or math.

Zepp also worked as a tutor at Arbutus Middle School, helping two seventh-grade boys, who she said were polar opposites but “best friends,” with their homework.

Zepp, who grew up on Fairway Avenue, just across from the UMBC campus, said at first she didn’t expect to attend UMBC. In fact, she “resisted it.”

When she was a student at Catonsville High, she said she wanted to go to “one of those fancy liberal arts schools” that might have more of a literary focus.

Now, as she approaches graduation, Zepp says attending UMBC was “probably the best decision I ever made in my life,” citing the financial savings and academic opportunities she’s had at the school.

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From left to right, Fulbright ScholarsFlora Kirk, Sophia Lopresti, Morgan Zepp, Manisha Vepa, Marc Schultz, Kelly Daughtridge, Jessica Willis and Morgan Chadderton pose with their passports.- Original Credit: Courtesy Photo / UMBC
From left to right, Fulbright ScholarsFlora Kirk, Sophia Lopresti, Morgan Zepp, Manisha Vepa, Marc Schultz, Kelly Daughtridge, Jessica Willis and Morgan Chadderton pose with their passports.- Original Credit: Courtesy Photo / UMBC (Courtesy Photo / UMBC / HANDOUT)

Zepp said she started applying for the Fulbright almost a year ago with the help of Brian Souder, the Fulbright program adviser at UMBC.

The application process includes a “boot camp” over the summer and in-person interviews to narrow the field of applicants, Souder said.

In the time he’s been a Fulbright adviser at UMBC, about 10 years, he’s helped guide about 50 students receive the award. This year, 33 students from UMBC applied and 16 made it to the semifinal round. In the end, eight students from the school were chosen.

“It makes my heart burst with pride and happiness,” Souder said. He said he likes seeing students who participate in the Fulbright program set on “a different trajectory” in life after spending time working and living abroad, because of the global perspective the experience can give them.

For now, Zepp said, she’s not entirely sure what her trajectory will look like.

She’s glad to be teaching English in Lithuania, rather than a subject that would require more “rote memorization” from her students.

“I think it’ll be a lot more freedom to do different things,” she said. ​​​​​​

Zepp described herself as “kind of a home person” and said she was still working on a plan for when she returns to Catonsville from Lithuania next June.

“I think I want to be around [home] for a bit,” she said. “That really depends on how I feel, like, six months from now.”

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