Georgia Decker ’15 has been selected for a prestigious 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Student Award to Malaysia, affording her the chance of a lifetime to serve abroad as an English teaching assistant while immersing herself in Malaysian culture.
Known for its highly competitive field of applicants, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. This year, Decker is one of seven members of the Classes of 2015 – a record number for a single year at the Colleges – who have earned Fulbright awards around the world, including Cydney Chibnall ’15, Katherine Cornell ’15, Jeanine Cryan ’15, Kathryn DePietro ’15, Jordyn Dezago ’15 and Christopher Troy ’15. HWS was also recently recognized as a top producer of 2013-2014 Fulbright U.S. Students.
“I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to work in Malaysia,” Decker says. “I love learning, and I hope to foster that same love for learning in others.”
During her Fulbright experience, Decker intends to explore the Malaysian culture around teaching, while empowering students through English, the official language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a multinational group that includes many nations in Southeast Asia. Decker says a major component of why she’s pursuing the English teaching assistantship is that she wants to make English more accessible to those who struggle or might not otherwise be inspired as learners.
A critical social studies major with a minor in sociology, Decker earned a Woodworth Fellowship for her summer research on gender, labor and race. Decker also has made the Dean’s list every semester. On campus, she is member of the Race and Racism Coalition, the Sexual Violence Task Force and the Women’s Collective. Decker has served as a student representative for the Fisher Center Steering Committee and an HWS EcoRep. She’s also involved with Colleges for Seneca Lake.
Previously, Decker studied abroad in both Vietnam and Romania. She has held several internships in New York City, including with the Hetrick-Martin Institute, Not an Alternative and the Laundry Workers Center.
“I studied abroad in Vietnam and loved the communal aspect of their culture, but I want to be able to experience and learn from other parts of Southeast Asia, specifically Malaysia with its rich dynamic history,” Decker says.
In addition, Decker hopes to engage with Malaysian youth through a variety of community projects and activities in music, art or dance outside of the classroom. In Geneva, Decker has worked as a figure skating instructor.
“Movement is another mode that enhances learning by aligning the physical with the mental, with the added benefit of performing fun activities,” Decker says. “Having participated in a myriad of athletics, from soccer to ultimate Frisbee, I am prepared to coach a variety of sports, whichever students seem most enthusiastic about.”
Following her Fulbright assistantship, Decker says, she ultimately wants to combine her interest in other cultures and countries with social justice issues related to labor, gender, class and education. She says whether she pursues a career in education, labor organizing or women’s rights advocacy, she hopes to continue to develop her relationships with those from other backgrounds and cultures in order to make more powerful personal connections.
Decker says that she hopes in Southeast Asia she’s able to experience a different – and potentially more challenging – lifestyle than she has previously known.
“Now I want to experience and learn from Malaysia in the way I gained so much from the people and culture of Vietnam,” Decker says. “I want to form relationships in Malaysia as a respected teacher, but also by offering myself as a foreigner to them, for reciprocity is essential in understanding culture and language.”