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Chesley: Selamat petang di Malaysia (hello from Malaysia)

Rachael Chesley Fulbright Scholar who will be living Malaysia.   |  Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

Rachael Chesley, a Fulbright Scholar who will be living in Malaysia. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 11, 2012 8:49AM



In June 2011, I heard the news that I earned a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Scholarship to Malaysia. Today, I looked out across the South China Sea with 16 fellow Fulbrighters, as I let the warm water wash up over my feet and the soft breeze cool me off from the warm sunlight.

Fulbright is a prestigious, worldwide scholarship program that aims to facilitate mutual understanding and to promote cultural exchange. Since its development by U.S. Sen. William Fulbright in 1946, the program now operates in more than 185 countries. As the Fulbright Program aims to improve U.S. foreign relations, the program is directly related to the United States’ foreign policy. Congress votes to allocate funds to the program, which is overseen by U.S. embassies around the world.

Until November, I will be living and teaching in a rural, Islamic fishing village in Terengganu, Malaysia. Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia, and Islam plays a key role in the country’s politics as well as a vital role in the culture. Terengganu is one of the 13 states of Malaysia and its population is approximately 94 percent Muslim. Positioned right along the eastern coast of the country, it has the longest coastline of beaches as well as tropical rainforests.

Since my arrival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Jan. 4, the State Department, the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange and the Malaysian Ministry of Education conducted a thorough orientation for the 49 fellow Fulbrighters and I, which included meeting Prime Minister Najib as well as U.S. Ambassador Paul W. Jones. Post-orientation we were separated between three states in Malaysia, Pahang, Johor and Terengganu, for state-level orientations before individually moving to our new communities and schools in those respective states.

During the coming months, I will serve as a representative of my home community and the United States to Terengganu, Malaysia. I invite you to join me on my journey of cultural exchange and mutual understanding, as I ask questions, adapt to a new culture and gain rich experience on the other side of the world.

Rachael Chesley is a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia through the U.S. State Department’s Fulbright ETA Scholarship Program. Rachael grew up in New Lenox and is a 2007 Lincoln-Way Central graduate, as well as a 2011 graduate from Saint Mary’s College of Notre Dame.



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