From a documentary to a Fulbright Scholarship, Soraya Keiser ’24 is finding her calling in stories

Soraya Keiser ’24 recently became the first Bethel student to receive a Fulbright Scholarship in more than a decade. It’s the latest example of Keiser finding numerous ways to get involved, tell stories, and gain experiences at Bethel through trips abroad, The Clarion, and Textura.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, senior web content specialist

May 17, 2024 | 9:30 a.m.

Growing up, Soraya Keiser ’24 remembers finding new potential careers as she flipped through magazines like National Geographic. After reading about viruses, she wanted to be an epidemiologist. Then she wanted to climb Mount Everest. She found more and more things she wanted to do. But then, she found a throughline in all those stories: Someone was writing them. “And so from then on, I wanted to be a journalist,” she says.

Studying journalism and international relations at Bethel, Keiser found numerous opportunities to explore her passions for writing, world issues, and international travel. And at Bethel, she’s had the chance to get involved and explore these interests from her first days on campus. She’s held leadership positions on The Clarion, Bethel’s award-winning student newspaper. She’s also traveled abroad to Kosovo, Lithuania, and Guatemala. She’s traveled to Guatemala twice with Textura, a study abroad project where Bethel students travel abroad and gain experience writing stories, taking photos, and designing for an award-winning magazine. Partnering with Professor of Journalism Scott Winter, Keiser received an Edgren Scholars grant to return to Guatemala to produce the documentary Border of Dreams, which tells the immigration stories of two families—one that made it to America and one that didn’t.

Keiser continues seeking out opportunities to tell stories and expand her skills. With support from Bethel’s Johnson Center for Journalism and Communication, she spent 10 extra days in Kosovo after a study abroad trip to pursue the chance to tell the story of a girls’ soccer team with Albanian, Serbian, and Romanian athletes while looking at the geopolitical tensions.

With many strong interests, Keiser doesn’t know exactly what the future holds in terms of her career aspirations. But she’s already pursuing new opportunities to travel abroad and tell stories. She recently became the first Bethel student to receive a Fulbright Scholarship in over a decade. “It’s exciting!” she says. “I think it has renewed some interest in the program and showed people that it’s possible to receive an award like this even if you go to a smaller institution.”

The opportunity first arose when Keiser studied in Kosovo. There, she shadowed reporters from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), and she met an American Fulbright scholar who was working as a freelancer. The experience inspired Keiser to apply. Starting September 1, she’ll serve as an English teaching assistant (ETA) working with high schoolers in Bulgaria for about 20 hours a week. She’ll also find ways to immerse herself in the culture. Along with her work, she hopes to form a journalism club to help students chronicle their family history and school news. “Fulbright gives me the opportunity to explore a new part of the world that I have been interested in for a long time,” she says. “I want to be immersing myself in new cultures and getting to know people through genuine relationships—Fulbright gives me this opportunity.”

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