I am off on my 10 month Fulbright grant in Malaysia as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA). Fulbright is a program under the U.S. Department of State that offers educational-exchange grants to recent graduates. The Fulbright in Malaysia program works in a binational partnership with the Malaysian Ministry of Education through a commission called the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange.
Hello from Kuala Lumpur!
After nearly two days of flying we arrived to the urban capital of Malaysia. At the airport, we were greeted by our friendly coordinators from MACEE (Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange). With a cohort of 98 Fulbrighters (comprised of recent graduates and few graduate students from across the US) the initial days felt similar to the first days of college getting to know everyone’s home city and major.
MACEE hosted a two-week orientation at a hotel in the heart of KL. The infrastructure and development in KL is indescribable. Every block appears to have another high-rise going up. The first day I made my way to the iconic Petronas Towers, the twin towers that remained the tallest buildings in the world from 1998-2004 (surpassed by Taipei 101). The Petronas Towers set the backdrop to a diverse architectural skyline. The city of KL itself is known as the city of “Contrasts & Diversity”. Demographically about 46% of KL identifies as Malay, 43% identifies as Chinese and 10% identifies as Indian.
The first week of orientation was filled with community building exercises and important housekeeping items. MACEE worked to prepare our working visas, bank accounts, cars, healthcare, and housing. Because Fulbright (and MACEE) works under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State we were briefed by several US Embassy officials including the Deputy Chief of Mission Edgar D. Kagan, and the Public Affairs Counselor Frank J Whitaker. We were also briefed by the Regional Security Office, the Consular Section, and the embassy health advisor.
The second week we focused on the Malaysian educational system and took daily Bahasa Malaysia language and cross-cultural classes. We also met with local youth NGOs for potential future partnerships and resources. We learned from several current English-Foreign-Language teachers about their classroom and pedagogical techniques.
At the end of the week we were invited to the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence to meet the recently appointed ambassador Kamala Lakhdhir, other embassy officials, and our district Malaysian Ministry of Education administrators. Kamala Lakhdhir arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur at the same time as we arrived. She worked much of her career in the classroom teaching English abroad and is very excited about to join us in the classroom!
Check out this video that made the local news!