By Erin D’Amelio
Almost a month before I was supposed to graduate from college this past May, I had no idea what I was going to do once I was given my degree. As if finals weren’t the only stressful things in my life then, right? But it wasn’t like I hadn’t prepared for anything; I applied for jobs like most of my fellow classmates, but as a good portion of us learned, the job market unfortunately wasn’t doing us any favors. Still unsure about graduate school as I entered my senior year of college, I decided before the fall semester began that I had to explore more options. Because I had some experience teaching languages and a healthy dose of wanderlust, one such option was teaching abroad. I had only applied for two programs, the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) and the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA), confident in my applications yet wildly hopeful that I’d get the opportunity to travel and gain some work experience. Anxious and gulping down far too many cups of tea (I’m not much of a coffee person), I awaited those final decisions from each program. (They, unlike my potential jobs, would give me the assurance of a response.) In the first couple of days of April, I found out that I had been accepted to both programs. But I could only choose one.
So, I’m going to Malaysia for ten months as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. And I leave in less than three weeks.
But first, some background: my name is Erin, a Mount Bethel resident and recent graduate from Easton’s very own Lafayette College with a dual degree in English and French. If you were to ask me what has been the most influential factor in my life and I would respond without hesitation: reading. Often during my childhood, my mother would find me scrunched up in a little ball with a book pressed to my nose, as though its proximity would somehow absorb me even further into the story. With a book, I could travel to a Moroccan spice market and escape from thieves while the miasma of cumin and turmeric pressed into my skin, or I could stroll under the ephemeral English sun in a garden of a grand estate and pine for the love of a mysterious gentleman. Needless to say, reading for me was the ultimate sensory adventure.
It wasn’t until my junior year of college that introduced me to the similar joy, and even more immersive experience, of traveling on my own. I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Madagascar for the Lafayette Initiative for Malagasy Education (affectionately known as LIME) and then Paris for my spring semester study abroad program. Both trips exposed me to portions of the world that I had never known intimately, but even more importantly, it showed me that I could actually be independent in an unfamiliar world. This, along with my travel craving and an open-ended future, has motivated me to pursue the Fulbright scholarship. And now, I’m going to be exploring another portion of the world, the impressively opposite-from-my-life world of Malaysia. For a whole ten months. It’s going to be a journey unlike anything I’ve ever known up until this point, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
My name is Erin D’Amelio and I’m going to Malaysia for ten months as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Over the next 10 months I will be submitting regular journal entries of this incredible adventure, documenting my thoughts and experiences. The views and beliefs I will present in these articles are my own; they do not reflect those of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. Below are the articles, in order of publication. Just click on any link and continue the journey with me.
An Unforgettable Journey
How Does One Get a Fulbright, Exactly?
And Then We Wait