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Job offer gives Fulbright scholar another year in Indonesia

Shelby Lawson, center, had some fun with new friends in Indonesia.
Shelby Lawson, center, had some fun with new friends in Indonesia.

When University of Louisville alumna Shelby Lawson headed to Indonesia in August 2016 as a Fulbright scholar, she expected her time overseas would be life changing.

But she didn’t expect to be offered an Indonesian-based job.

Despite the surprise, Lawson has readily accepted a position as research coordinator for the American Indonesian Exchange Foundation, the nonprofit foundation that administers Fulbright programs in that nation.

“I will be working at their headquarters in Jakarta and be the program manager for English teaching assistants next year as well as conduct research on the program itself. I am looking forward to starting my new role here and engaging with the Indonesian education system in a different capacity,” Lawson said.

The position means Lawson, a 2014 graduate with degrees in economics and Spanish, will spend another year in Indonesia after she finishes her work as a Fulbright scholar.

Lawson has been teaching English at a high school in the city of Kendari on the island of Sulawesi.

She says some of her most memorable moments during her time in Indonesia were organizing a local speech competition, hosting a TOEFL (a test of English as a foreign language) club for university lecturers pursuing their doctorates and connecting with the local live music scene.

“I came into my year in Indonesia wanting to make this a home, not a place I was passing through. My community completely overwhelmed me with kindness and opportunities and I fell in love,” Lawson said.

Before Lawson embarked on her Fulbright journey, she spent two years with Teach For America helping youngsters in an underserved area on the border of Texas and Mexico. She is fluent in Spanish — which made it easier for her to connect with students in that part of the country.

During the summer of 2015, she also took part in a National Park Service initiative that employs teachers as rangers throughout the summer. That program enabled her to spend a summer in Sitka, Alaska, creating a distance-learning program and managing a camp for elementary-aged children.

Lawson begins her new position in Jakarta in July. The Bowling Green, Kentucky, native and UofL Grawemeyer Research Scholarship winner will get some time over the summer to return to Kentucky to visit family and friends before she begins her next adventure.

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