Hello Dear Readers,
I have a backlog of things to share (Bonnaroo! Road trip home! GRE! Goals for summer!) but for the moment I’ll touch on two that are recent and relevant for the subject of this blog: placement and Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO).
For the first: Placement. Whenever I tell people that I am going to Indonesia to teach English, the first question usually concerns where in Indonesia. I haven’t known up until last week, when I received an email about my placement. Now I know that I will be….drum roll please…..in Pangkal Pinang! Woooo!!!….?
Not sure where that is? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. As a matter of fact, no one else in the large cohort of Fulbrighters to Indonesia know except for my sitemate, Catilin. In a nutshell: Pangkal Pinang is on the east coast of Bangka, a smallish island off the southeastern coast of Sumatra that is at least large enough to show up on the map. It is most famous for tin mining and does have a few nice beaches, though I estimate that tourism isn’t really a big thing there. Since it is practically on the Equator, it is guaranteed to be pretty hot. Here’s a map to give you an idea of where in the world I’ll be spending the next year. I am on the island with the red dot.
I do have my school placement too. I can’t remember the name off the top of my head, though it appears to be a public school and I am pretty sure that I will be primarily teaching tenth grade. An alumn who taught at my school was CC’d on the placement email, so I hope to get more specific information from her about what exactly to expect while living in Pangkal Pinang.
Meanwhile, I have had a lot of other questions about this Fulbright experience answered in the last few days. At this moment I am in Washington DC, where I am enjoying PDO and meeting all of the other Fulbrighters who will be living in East Asia and the Pacific. About 160 Fulbright Scholars, Students, Researchers, and even a Fulbright-MTV award recipient are here, along with folks from the Institute of International Education and (of course) the Department of State. Combined, we will be living, working, and exchanging in China (the largest cohort), Indonesia (second largest cohort), Hong Kong/Macau, Mongolia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Fiji, and Burma.
I’ll admit that I was pretty intimidated to walk into a room full of Fulbrighters. I feared a sense of elitism, snobbishness, intellect that I couldn’t keep up with. But I shouldn’t have worried! People have been absolutely wonderful. Intelligent for sure, though not inaccessible. And fascinating! Everyone has great stories and diverse interests. From music to biology to art to history to pretty much any other discipline, they are represented in the ranks here. Plus there are alumni and the schedule allows plenty of time for Q&A, which has been the most helpful part of the orientation thus far.
Right now is the midpoint of PDO. Everyone but the ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) have been dismissed. The ETAs will remain for further training in English instruction. I am somewhat surprised that only a handful of people have teaching experience. I have a TESOL Certificate and am one of the only ones, which I think will be helpful when I actually get into a classroom.
My favorite moment of PDO so far is also the most surreal. If you followed my blog in 2013 about my backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, then you know that I lost my debit card (and later all of my money) in Savannakhet, Laos. You may also recall that during the weeks that I was waiting in Savannakhet, I met four Fulbright ETAs who had just arrived. It was from them that I learned about the Fulbright ETA program, and it was at that moment that the seed of the idea to apply was planted.
Who would have guessed that two years later I would see one of them again at the Fulbight PDO in Washington, DC? The first day of orientation, all of the alumni were invited to the front of the room to introduce themselves. The representative for Laos was one of the last ones to go, and I could feel my heart beating faster when she said she was an ETA for the 2013-2014 year and that she was placed in Savannakhet. Unbelievable! After the meeting I went up and introduced myself (which I have done a lot in the last couple of days) and she remembered me too. Just goes to show that you never know what impact you’ll have on someone, and that you never know when you may cross paths with people again.