Finding common ground

-There are more similarities among people than there are differences—no matter their backgrounds. That idea has been a guiding force for Eli Lovely—from high school, where his history teacher often drew commonalities between cultures of the world, through Wheaton, where he got to experience this firsthand during a semester abroad in Egypt.

The interest in fostering connections between people led him to major in international relations, to pursue teaching experiences that brought him in contact with students from all over the world, and now it has earned him a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Turkey.

“The theme of commonality amongst cultures had followed me from high school to college where the causes of divisions amongst societies became more apparent, yet seemingly more preventable. It was not until my semester abroad, however, that this theme helped to solidify my commitment to the discipline,” Lovely wrote in his Fulbright proposal.

“A semester abroad in Egypt changed my life dramatically. Every day of that semester offered me new challenges and learning experiences, forcing me to reevaluate preconceived notions of the Arab world while solidifying other intellectual curiosities….Most profound, however, was the realization that we are all the same people, and that notions about the ‘other’ are pervasive, but misconstrued.”

In 2008, Lovely taught English to refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, and Iraq as a volunteer for Student Action for Refugees (STAR) in Egypt. In 2009, he worked as a teaching intern during a summer session at Northfield Mount Herman. There he worked closely with a large group of high school students from Turkey. They all learned from each other by sharing cultural interests, exchanging phrases and idioms and discussing politics, he said.

At Wheaton, Lovely has been an Admission intern; 2010 Class Senator in the Student Government Association; a student representative to the Provost’s Advisory Committee; and the business manager for the Gentlemen Callers a cappella group.

He plans to share his interest in music to help him connect to students while in Turkey, as well as explore the music and drama that are part of the country’s cultural identity.

“I want to inspire students to embrace cultural understanding, ask questions and develop friendships outside of one’s initial purview,” he said.

“An English Teaching Assistantship in Turkey will not merely allow me to pursue my interest in teaching and learning, but will endow me with a deeper understanding of the world, specifically a region I have focused on as a student. As one who understands, and seeks to highlight, commonalities between cultures, the opportunity to teach as an American in Turkey inspires me as I attempt to dispel preconceived notions about Americans. My drive to understand a culture unlike my own will hopefully motivate my Turkish students to do the same.”

After a year of teaching in Turkey, Lovely said he plans to advance his education in the field of international relations, and go on to teach at the college level.