When she was a high school student in Providence, R.I., Amanda-Joy Febles volunteered with her mother to lead informal English lessons for women and children who could not read or speak the language.
That experience fueled a passion for teaching and writing that has inspired Febles to seek out new opportunities to exercise and share the power of language with others, from editorial internships to volunteer work in several elementary schools.
Next year, the Wheaton College senior will travel to Indonesia as a 2012 Fulbright Scholar to teach English to Indonesian school children, and she is looking forward to the opportunity to continue her work as a teacher.
“I enjoy the ‘aha’ moment that students have when they finally connect the dots about a concept. It’s amazing, you can see it in their face, their posture, and how they raise their hands,” she says of her interest in teaching. “It makes me feel like I’ve helped to inspire intellectual curiosity and enabled my most doubtful students to believe in themselves.”
For Febles, teaching in Indonesia also presents the opportunity to promote social justice through education.”English has rapidly become a global language and learning it can produce a variety of opportunities for non-native speakers who learn the language,” she says. “This award will allow me to play a small part in facilitating that for Indonesian students.”
And the island nation, which holds the distinction of being the world’s most populous Muslim-majority state while also being home to approximately 300 native ethnic groups and a richness of biodiversity second only to Brazil, holds special fascination for Febles.
“Indonesia really interests me for a variety of reasons,” the English major says. “Its stretch across 6,000 inhabited islands is fascinating to me and excites me about the wondrous possibilities and nuances that exist among them. In addition, I am intrigued by its rich diversity in culture, biota, and ethnicity. I am also eager to learn more about the intersection of nationality and religion in such a unique place.”
She predicts the experience will be life-changing. “This experience will broaden my global understanding, my appreciation of other cultures, and enhance my notions of faith and the connections between social integrity and Islam in a Muslim state,” she says. “I will return as a refined global thinker and believe that my lifelong decisions will be more inclusive to other experiences and people in the world.”
Indonesia will not be Febles’s first trip abroad. She spent her junior year abroad, studying journalism for one semester at the American University of Cairo and participating in a program on social development and change in Vietnam. While in Cairo, Febles volunteered as an English tutor to Sudanese refugees and she wrote for the university’s newspaper. In Vietnam, she worked with an English language club at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City.
Febles has developed her teaching skills as an English and writing tutor in local schools and as a bi-lingual teaching assistant in a Providence elementary school. She is currently interning with the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston as a communications and marketing intern. She previously interned with Teen Voices World magazine in Boston.
On campus, Febles has been active in a variety of organizations, including the Intercultural Board and the Distinguished Women of Color Collective. She also has been a writer for the campus newspaper, a peer advisor for the Center for Global Education and a senior admission intern.
In many ways, the Fulbright represents the fulfillment of a dream. “When I came to Wheaton, I knew I wanted to travel abroad,” she says. “When I was younger, my mom and I would do this thing where we would pretend to be birds, close our eyes, and fly to any place in the world. It made my world so big, she really opened me up to so many possibilities at a young age. Since then, traveling has been an aspiration of mine. My experience in Cairo confirmed that this passion is an integral part of who I am.”