Exploring Mongolia through Fulbright Award – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Exploring Mongolia through Fulbright Award

As the recipient of a prestigious 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Award, Ryan Kertanis ’16 will travel to Mongolia where he will teach English.

“Being selected for the Fulbright is a huge honor and I’m extremely excited to take on this challenge,” says Kertanis, who graduated magna cum laude in anthropology and environmental studies. “The Fulbright Award will give me the chance to take the lessons I learned throughout my time at HWS and apply them to a meaningful and rewarding program that is also very intense.”

Known for its highly competitive field of applicants, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Kertanis is one of seven HWS students and recent graduates to earn a 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Award, including Charles S. DeBenedetto ’16 (Taiwan), Virginia DeWees ’16 (Malaysia),  Afrika Owes ’16 (South Africa), Olivia Woodruff ’16 (Senegal), Emma McDowell ’15 (Bangkok) and Sophia Skaff ’15 (Brazil).

Most excited to experience the “remoteness” of Mongolia, Kertanis will spend 20 hours each week teaching English to local students with his remaining time dedicated to pursuing his interests in cultural studies and the environment.

He plans to get involved in activities that are integral to the Mongolian culture, such as wrestling, horseback riding, and archery. He also intends to visit the energy sector in Mongolia, a region that he studied while at HWS, which consists of several independent electric power systems. Ultimately he hopes to understand the Mongolian people’s relationship with the environment and the “traditions that are so close to an ancient, nomadic way of life.”

“My goal, whether in the classroom or playing a game, is to learn first and teach second, to abandon my assumptions until they are proven, and to use my experiences for my benefit but also for the benefit of my students’ understanding,” Kertanis says.

While previously studying abroad, Kertains came to understand the Vietnamese culture by getting involved in the local community. In Vietnam, he joined a soccer team, learned how to bargain at the market, how to eat properly, and where to buy groceries. These experiences provided him with opportunities to share his culture with others as well.

“Such simple exchanges of real cultural knowledge were some of the most rewarding moments in my experience in Vietnam, and they were avenues to connecting more closely with my Vietnamese friends,” he says. “It’s these types of experiences – where learning is mutual and enriching – that motivate me to teach in Mongolia.”

Kertanis also says he will apply valuable lessons learned from his experiences as a writing colleague, writing fellow, and teaching fellow at HWS to enhance his teaching in Mongolia. Through teaching his peers he learned to “question assumptions, and to slow down and learn from my students before teaching.”

On campus, he also served as president and vice president of the Hobart club hockey team, and was a member of Chi Phi and a Hobart Heritage Scholar.