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August 12, 2011

Anthropology Grad Wins Fulbright to Teach in Indonesia

Marjorie Brumm and Friends

For many college graduates, the summer after graduation is a time to hunt for a first job or to gear up for graduate study.

For 2011 graduate Marjorie Brumm, this summer included brushing up on her knowledge of the language and culture of Indonesia in preparation for the year she’ll spend teaching English to high school students on the island of Sulawesi in the province of Gorontalo.

Brumm, who graduated in May with a degree in anthropology and communication, is one of three recent Wheaton graduates who were awarded Fulbright grants. Brumm received an English Teaching Assistantship to fund her participation in the exchange program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The goal of the program is to foster leadership, learning and empathy between cultures.

Brumm says her years at Wheaton intensified a love for travel instilled by her family. “My family traveled frequently growing up, and I have wanted to live overseas for a long time. Majoring in anthropology intensified and informed my interest in other parts of the world and grew in me a desire to help create understanding between different cultures,” she says. “I will never forget my favorite and most formative anthropology class, Culture in the Contemporary World, and how it altered the course of my life forever by exposing me to the wonders of God's creation in the form of human culture and committing me to always pursue understanding and reconciliation.”

After doing ethnographic research on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia during the summer of 2009, Brumm was determined to get more international experience. “That experience gave me a real taste for how rewarding and challenging life can be in another culture,” she says. “I loved seeing the world through a new perspective.”

Because she had previous exposure to the language and culture of Indonesia, as well as friends she made during her summer there, Brumm decided to apply for one of 35 ETA grants to Indonesia, believing her experiences would make her a better teacher to her students and a better agent of cultural exchange.

Brumm leaves for the country this week, and will begin teaching following a three-week orientation.

She has several goals for her time in Gorontalo. “I aim to apply my anthropology and communication training to teach cross culturally and help my students improve their English speaking skills, while I delve deeply into learning about the culture and speaking Indonesian,” she says. “I’m also looking forward to making good Indonesian and Muslim friends and, in the process, creating better understanding of North American Christians. I hope a lot of stereotypes will be broken and that we can work together to promote peace, reconciliation, and friendship between Christians and Muslims,” Brumm adds. “I will be working hard as a cultural ambassador, sharing about life and cultures in the United States with Indonesians both inside and outside of the classroom, while learning deeply about their culture as well. I will immerse myself in the food, language, dress, and mannerisms to try to begin to understand what the world looks like through their eyes.”

“My personal goal for the year is to become fluent in Indonesian, which—I admit—sounds really ambitious for a ten-month stay, but I think it will help me push through the frustrations that can come with living in a foreign culture.”

In addition to learning the language, Brumm hopes to participate in community development efforts, perhaps through volunteer work or English tutoring with women in Gorontalo.

She expects to have her perspective broadened during her time overseas.

“I am looking forward to the challenge of living in another culture because my eyes will be opened and a lot of my assumptions challenged, which is largely why I applied for this grant,” Brumm says.

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