Music student wins Fulbright to teach English in Bulgaria

Tim Wilkins, a senior music major, has won a Fulbright Scholarship to study and teach in Bulgaria. (Greg Nathan/ University Communications)
Tim Wilkins, a senior music major, has won a Fulbright Scholarship to study and teach in Bulgaria. (Greg Nathan/ University Communications)

Tim Wilkins, a senior music major at UNL, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. The music composition major will be traveling to Bulgaria for an English teaching assistantship after he graduates this spring.

The Fulbright Program, established in 1946 and funded by the U.S. Department of State, is designed to foster understanding between the United States and other countries. The U.S. Student Fulbright program gives recent graduates, graduate students and young professionals the opportunity to conduct research, study or teach in one of 155 designated countries. About 8,000 grants are awarded annually, and about 1,600 of those grants are awarded to U.S. students.

Wilkins, who is from Ralston, is no stranger to studying abroad. While studying in Japan in fall 2011, he said he gained a great appreciation for other cultures. Eager to build upon this opportunity, Wilkins began zeroing in on a Fulbright scholarship. After visiting with Laura Damuth in the UNL Fellowships Office, he began the process of applying for a Fulbright to Bulgaria.

“As soon as Tim spoke to me about his interest in an English-teaching Fulbright, I suggested Bulgaria because of its rich musical traditions,” Damuth said.

As a high school senior, Wilkins interned in a local third-grade classroom and grew to love teaching. Like his time studying abroad, the experience was influential in his decision to pursue the Fulbright. He said he hopes to build the same kind of meaningful relationships with students in Bulgaria as he did with American students.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Wilkins has proposed to conduct a research project exploring the influences neighboring countries have had on Bulgaria’s music. He said Middle Eastern and European tradition have noticeable impact on the country’s folk music.
“While I was in Japan, I was exposed to new musical idioms and this prompted me to buy a field recorder so that I could amass a diverse collection of unique sounds,” he said. “As a composer, I am interested in observing communities and their musical influences.”

When he studied Japanese at UNL, Wilkins stood out in his classes with teacher Chisato Nii Steele.

“His charismatic and approachable personality is appreciated by his peers,” Steele said. “Tim possesses an ability to see things from a unique perspective and is always willing to share his thoughts and ideas with others.”

As with his teaching, Wilkins’ musical background has roots in the local community. Through his involvement in the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, he has been a part of holiday service projects since his freshman year, traveling to hospice and nursing homes to sing carols.

Wilkins is currently working on a film score for the student-written screenplay, “Digs,” the second film in the Carson School Film Series. Once he returns from his Fulbright, he said he hopes to find his dream job writing musical scores for TV and games.

Wilkins’ Fulbright is the third awarded to UNL students this spring. Samantha Marcoux, a global studies major with minors in East Asian studies and Spanish, will study and teach English in South Korea for the 2013-14 academic year. Read more about Marcoux at

Recent UNL graduate Lindsay Graef was awarded a Fulbright to go to Indonesia, where she will be an English teaching assistant. She majored in studio art at UNL. Read more about Graef at

-- Anna McTygue, University Honors Program