Poland-bound Fulbright scholar finds success between pipettes and pirouettes
Natasha Ng, a Fullbright Scholar, will pursue dancing for the NBA following a commitment teaching English to university students in Poland.
For Natasha Ng, the road to becoming a Fulbright Scholar was tough, but worthwhile.
Last December, Ng completed her UA undergraduate degree in molecular and cellular biology with a 3.8 GPA.
“That was with a lot of suffering,” she laughed. “I spent a lot of nights crying in the library.”
Those harsh study hours of dedication and laborious work paid off when Ng was accepted as a Fulbright Scholar in March.
The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has awarded around 8,000 grants annually since its establishment in 1946, according to the Fulbright website. Ng, 22, is one of approximately 1,600 American scholars selected by the Foreign Scholarship Board.
She said the “rigorous” application process required her to write a personal statement, grant statement and attend an in-person interview.
“I tried not to think about the statistics too much,” she said. “I felt like I was a good fit for what the program was looking for.”
As a teaching assistant for several UA biology courses, Ng discovered a passion for teaching.
Nick Roalofs was one of the students Ng taught as a preceptor for Introduction to Biology two years ago.
According to Roalofs, their friendship evolved around the change they both wish to see within the world.
“We talked about being a more compassionate person and putting our hearts and souls into making the world a better place,” Roalofs said. “We are each other’s yin and yang. When Natasha is down I lift her up; when I’m down she lifts me up.”
In October of 2016, she applied to the Fulbright Scholarship Program in Poland at the University of Opole, intending to become an English teaching assistant.
“I want to see how education and healthcare systems can be different,” Ng said. “I think interacting with people who are different from me will be a valuable experience.”
After enrolling into an Introduction to Biology course freshman year, Ng knew she wanted to pursue a medical profession. As a future medical doctor, Ng wants to develop a diversified perspective.
“A lot of patients will come from different backgrounds and will have different life experiences,” she said. “I think it’s good to try to learn how to interact with those who are different.”
When Ng returns to the U.S. in June 2018, she plans on attending medical school in either New York or Boston to pursue a career in dermatology, while also dancing for the National Basketball Association.
“I think dancing for the NBA is actually tougher to get into than medical school,” she said.
Following preliminary auditions, contenders are subject to several unrelenting rounds of cuts. Despite all odds, Ng is willing to persist toward her NBA dancing dream.
Kyla James, a dance instructor at BreakOut Studios on Fourth Avenue, met Ng about a year ago when she was one of her students. It was not long after the two became friends.
“She’s a pretty serious dancer,” James said. “She trained a lot and is really talented. Natasha is just as talented as the rest of them.”
When Ng was 10 years old, she and her family moved from Ahwatukee to Scottsdale. Her parents then placed her in dance school and the rest is history.
James said she commends Ng’s strength, ambition and ability to juggle a dance career with academic endeavors.
“Natasha is really driven,” she said. “You don’t meet a lot of people who want to be a doctor and be on a dance team at the same time. So I have a lot of admiration for her drive.”
Ng, who is trained in jazz, hip-hop and ballet, said she hopes to somehow incorporate dance to further engage with future students. She is confident this unspoken connection will “surpass the language barrier” between her and the Polish community.
Though she is awaiting the arrival of her passport through the mail and is traveling to Los Angeles next month for her visa, Ng is eager to leave for Poland in September.
In preparation for her year abroad, Ng completed a year of Polish through UA’s Critical Language Program and began independently studying the country’s history.
She will be teaching an English class to Polish students majoring in the language and a Scientific Writing course to STEM students at the University of Opole while living on her own in the city.
“I think the right person got this [position] because she put in the hard work and effort,” Roalofs said.
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