Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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A passion for education

Fulbright scholar Jennifer Irving ’14 headed to Malaysia

When she graduates from Wheaton this spring, Jennifer Irving ’14 plans to pursue a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. But first she will actually teach English to students in Malaysia through a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.

Irving, an anthropology major from Manchester, N.H., said she applied for the Fulbright because it combines her passions for education, meeting new people and travel.

“I value education as one of the most important opportunities for young people in our world, and I love being a part of that process,” she said. “With the Fulbright, I will be able to teach but also learn about a part of the world that I have not seen or experienced before.”

Irving’s first experience teaching English to non-native speakers was in 2011 when she participated in a summer course on education and development in Tanzania taught by Wheaton Professor of Anthropology Donna Kerner.

“I learned a lot about Chagga and Maasai cultures, development in Tanzania and the local education system; but more important, I learned how to engage with host families and apply my anthropological background in understanding a new place,” Irving said.

She spent the spring semester of her junior year studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco through the School for International Training, a program she chose for its combination of course work, homestays and independent research.

Irving pursued a Fulbright to Malaysia because she has never been to Asia.

“The more I learn about Malaysia, the more fascinated and curious I am to see and experience it for myself," she said.

The 11-month teaching position will begin in January. In addition to teaching, Irving hopes to become involved in extracurricular activities while in Malaysia, possibly advising a community service club.

“One of the highlights of my time at Wheaton has been my involvement in the New Orleans Alternative Break (NOLA). In this group, we learn about the hardship and injustice that many New Orleans residents faced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and then we spend a week in New Orleans helping to rebuild homes,” she said. “It's really rewarding to learn about a problem and then actively engage with a community in trying to change it.”

After her Fulbright year, Irving plans to pursue a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and eventually to teach at the middle or high school level.

“I've worked specifically with refugees and immigrants, and language is one of the biggest barriers they face in transitioning to life in the United States,” she said. “I've come to see language acquisition as really important.”

A Community Scholar at Wheaton, Irving has worked as a teaching assistant and an office assistant in the college library and held leadership positions in the NOLA program.