For decades, I longed to have a Fulbright in Indonesia, since it is both the world’s largest Muslim country and third hugest democratic nation. Fortunately, I was awarded a Fall 2013 fellowship at the University of Lampung, situated in Bandar-Lampung (the capitol of the province) located at the southern tip of Sumatra Island, just below the equator. My original portfolio was situated in the University’s Faculty of Teacher Training and Education that had approximately 7500 undergraduate and graduate students. Eager students, faculty, and rector were keen to learn about different educational levels in the United States and other Western and Asian countries. The photo below portrays students in an outdoor interactive lecture.
My role extended to co-teaching physicians, in the Faculty of Medicine, who desired to enhance their skills in English and scientific research methodology in order to engage in international conferences and forums. Learning about the latest research and techniques in medicine and sharing their knowledge of medical practices, somewhat unique to tropical climates, were the overarching desires of medical faculty who assumed the roles of students. Notice the photo, composed of the then woman dean and immediate former dean of medicine, along with two women faculty, man, and the Fulbright university coordinator.
On a sociocultural level, I had the opportunity for immersion in a Muslim nation where I was awakened by Muslim pre-dawn call to prayer and calmed by it at the end of daylight. Further, I attended Friday noon-day prayers with my graduate assistant (with an English degree), whose curiosity arose because I desired to attend Friday noon-day prayers with her – although I am not Muslim. It was mid-day serenity.
Although the sociocultural and religious milieu are quite different in Myanmar (largely a Buddhist nation), where I had a Fall 2017 Fulbright, considerable time was spent with two women graduate assistants at Myeik University. Both students were in STEM fields of botany and urban geography. It was quite striking that well-over half the Myeik University undergraduate and master’s students were women. Even more surprising were the major executive positions of Rector, Pro-Rector, and Deans were occupied by women – primarily in STEM fields. (The photo below portrays then university Rector, former Rector, Dean, and Graduate Assistants). Unbelievably, despite Myeik contemporary de jure and de facto military government, Western and Northern countries may learn some lessons that help place women in solid faculty and leadership positions. Throughout my time in Myeik and brief periods in Yangon (the capitol and largest city), I was constantly intrigued by Buddhism that permeates social institutions and daily life. One male professor calmly voiced to me that people who suffered in this life, were dealing with their past-life bad karmas. To me, this was quite surprising because he was located at one of the country’s major universities and held a PhD in humanities. Likely, the Myanmar Fulbright was one of my most unique life’s personal and professional experiences – including a Sunday afternoon excursion (with my graduate assistant) at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Why? Western nations do not evince overwhelming Buddhism; rather Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths are the dominant norms. Photos are shown below of the Shwedagon, the world’s oldest stupa.
I continue to remain in touch with talented professionals from Indonesia and Myanmar largely via Facebook, LinkedIn, and emails. Of particular note, women executives from both nations participated in our Ford Foundation multi-year Institute (at the University of California) that addresses women university leadership in Conflict, Post-Conflict, and Transitional Societies.
Beverly Lindsay, PhD, EdD has been awarded Fulbrights to Indonesia, Mozambique, Myanmar, South Korea, and Zimbabwe
Excellent summary of an enlightening and rewarding Fulbright experience. Thanks for sharing your insights and thoughtful comments.