16th Rowan Fulbright in 13 years off to Malaysia

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Psychology student enters English Teaching Assistantship, then to pursue graduate school.

Lauren Wederich is an experienced traveller.

As an undergraduate, Wederich studied abroad in Florence, Italy, hiked part of the Appalachian Trail, and visited Cancun and Hawaii.

But her next trip will be WAY different.

Wederich, a psychology major graduating with a nearly perfect 3.86 grade point average, has been accepted into the prestigious and notoriously choosy Fulbright program and will spend nine months starting this fall in Malaysia, a Southeast Asian monarchy.

Under the English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) scholarship, she’ll help teach the speaking of English and serve as an American cultural ambassador.

“I’m really excited but don’t actually know where I’ll be teaching,” said Wederich, 22, of Montgomery. “I requested elementary school but my assignment could fall anywhere from elementary to high school. They don’t tell you until you get there.”

One of several types of grants available through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, ETA scholarships are particularly competitive and require students to choose only one country for their experience.

Wederich said she sought a grant to Malaysia, a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nation bordering Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei, because of its exotic locale and to help round out her experience abroad.

“I’ve been to Europe and loved it but East Asia has always been interesting to me,” she said. “It’s a huge melting pot, and that’s very cool. I look forward to learning about Buddism and Islam.”

While on assignment she plans to visit other exotic nations including Laos and Cambodia.

An empathetic teacher

Wederich, who does not speak Malay, the language of Malaysia, is dyslexic and believes her own challenges with learning may make her a better, more empathetic, teacher.

“It’s harder for me to put words on paper and to comprehend the words I see,” she said. “And reading takes longer. It probably takes me one and a half times to read the same thing as someone else. For me, listening and taking notes makes comprehension easier so I understand different types of learning.”

Upon returning from her Fulbright experience Wederich plans to attend graduate school and to pursue a career in occupational therapy.

Meanwhile, she looks forward to her nine months abroad and encourages Rowan students to seek at least one study abroad experience.

“Study abroad changes you,” she said. “It isn’t just that it makes you more culturally aware, which of course it does, but it empowers you. It helped me feel independent and gave me a drive to keep travelling, to keep getting these outside-the-classroom experiences. It’s one thing to open a textbook to look at the Berlin wall, it’s a whole other thing to actually be standing there.”

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