Jordan Antonio, who in December graduated from California State University, Stanislaus with a bachelor's degree in psychology, recently became the first CSU Stanislaus student to receive a Fulbright award.
Antonio is one of three U.S. students who will spend 10 months, starting in September, helping teach English to students at the National University of Laos, in the capital city of Vientiane. While there, he also plans to conduct research on the ritual and philosophical similarities between Theravada Buddhism and Judaism.
The award comes as part of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program, which places U.S. students in classrooms abroad to assist teachers of English to non-native English speakers. ETA grants are available in nearly 70 countries.
Antonio said his mother, CSU Stanislaus anthropology professor Sari Miller-Antonio, instilled in him a love for other cultures throughout his life. He's volunteered at The Bridge, a Southeast Asian community center in Modesto, and in 2010 he studied abroad for one semester at Rangsit University in Thailand after taking a course in Asian culture taught by professor S. Steve Arounsack.
"The experience was unparalleled," Antonio said of his time in Thailand, during which he visited Laos for the first time. "Being completely immersed in another culture and meeting students from around the world was one of the most enriching experiences of my college career."
In most ETA programs, the students become fully integrated into the host community, increasing their own language skills and knowledge of the culture. They also have the option of pursuing their own research interests while in their host country.
This summer, Antonio will spend one month in a language and culture immersion program in Vientiane to help prepare him for the 10-month assistantship, which will see him working 20 hours per week teaching and preparing lessons. He credited his professors and advisers at CSU Stanislaus - both in psychology and his minor, anthropology - for their guidance.
"I've been lucky enough to have great professors throughout my time at CSU Stanislaus," he said. "I'd like to thank all of them for demonstrating their passion for teaching and promoting open-mindedness in the classroom. That definitely encouraged me to look for opportunities to teach English abroad."