BELOIT — Beloit native and athletic record-breaker Eva Laun-Smith has been awarded the Fulbright Student Award, one of the most prestigious and competitive scholarship programs in the world.
A Beloit College highest honors graduate who majored in history, Laun-Smith will teach English in South Korea starting in January 2022.
Laun-Smith recently graduated with highest honors from Beloit College and is a decorated athlete.
Laun-Smith is the daughter of Harry Smith and Angelika Laun. As a child, she attended Gaston Elementary and McNeel Intermediate schools in Beloit.
In middle school she started watching Korean TV shows after a YouTube recommendation and started listening to K-pop, or Korean pop music.
“I’ve been watching Korean reality and variety shows since I’ve been young. It’s part of the reason I can understand a lot of Korean phrases,” she said.
She went on to attend Beloit Memorial High School where she began breaking records in athletics.
In volleyball she earned All-Big Eight Conference First Team honors as a senior after earning Second Team twice before. In track and field, she qualified for the WIAA state meet three times. As a sophomore, she was third at state in the 100-meter high hurdles and fourth in the triple jump. She was fourth again in the triple jump as a junior and finally, as a senior, she won the triple jump with a leap of 39 feet, 10.50 inches.
When joining Beloit College, Laun-Smith became active as an RA, leader in Black Students United and Theta Pi Gamma, and a tireless team player on the track and field and volleyball teams.
She received the Ruth Peterson Award as Beloit College’s top senior female athlete for her efforts in track and field and volleyball. She received a “B” blanket as one of the top athletes in school history in both sports.
While she lost her senior year of volleyball to COVID-19, she graduated with school records for kills in a match (24), a season (343) and kills per set (3.61).
She is the most decorated track and field performer in school history and the Bucs’ lone three-time NCAA Division III All-American. She set indoor school records in the 60-meter hurdles, long jump and triple jump and outdoor records in the 100 hurdles, long jump and triple jump.
She capped her college career by winning five gold medals in her final Midwest Conference Outdoor Championships. She won the long jump, triple jump, 100-meter hurdles, javelin and 4x100 relay to run her career title to 12 conference outdoor golds.
She also studied Japanese for the past two years and tutored a Korean student.
“Through all of those things I’ve been able to broaden the way I think about those who come from different cultures. I had the opportunity to interact with so many different people,” she said.
Laun-Smith continues to work over the summer in the college archives, which she said has given her additional experience for her future endeavors.
“I know that if I don’t know something when I’m teaching I’ll have the ability to research it. Beloit has definitely prepared me to adapt for a lot of situations, how to do research, be prepared and navigate people from different cultures and backgrounds,” she said.
Laun-Smith hadn’t considered applying for the Fulbright Award until she was urged by a professor.
“I quickly decided this was something I would be interested in,” she said. “I ended up taking an online course to prepare.”
Currently she is doing self-study on English grammar and Korean. She said she’s thinking about getting certified to referee volleyball.
Fulbright prepares its ETAs (English teaching assistants) very thoroughly. ETAs go through a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification program, in-class practice, and take Korean language courses, she said.
Laun-Smith received her TEFL certification over the summer, so she was already a step ahead.
She hopes to teach abroad for another year or two after the Fulbright program, then return to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in library science with a focus on archives, public history or education.