FARGO — Ashley Blazek’s friends will tell you she lives by the motto “be where your feet are."
It’s about being present and taking in your surroundings, 22-year-old Blazek told The Forum.
It was this motto that led Blazek to her next adventure. Blazek is headed almost 9,000 miles from Fargo. The 2015 North Fargo High School grad will spend 10 months helping Malaysian teenagers further develop their English language skills.
“I’ll miss family and friends — and Jif peanut butter,” Blazek said. “It’s easy to get comfortable and into a routine, and that’s about to get shaken up. It's hard to fully know what I’m getting into.”
In January, Blazek will travel to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, for two weeks of training. Then she will be sent to her teaching assignment. Until then Blazek doesn’t know if she’ll be in a rural or urban setting or if she’ll be working as a tutor or classroom teacher.
“We’re guaranteed running water and electricity, and a shared car," she said. “But not necessarily air conditioning.”
Although Blazek isn't sure what to expect, she says the Fulbright program will help her explore teaching as a career, and understand a new culture and her own identity. She's also excited to meet her students, celebrate new holidays, and try Malaysian food.
Fulbright’s English Teaching Assistant Program places individuals in schools around the world to help local English teachers. Teaching assistants also serve as cultural ambassadors. On average, more than 900 awards are given each year, about 100 of those awarded are placed in Malaysia.
Blazek graduated in May with a degree in public relations from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Her time at Drake helped shape her interest in the Fulbright program.
Blazek volunteered with TeamMates Mentoring for three years in college. The organization partners school-age children with community members to provide support and encouragement. Blazek’s mentee, a young refugee, left a lasting impact on her.
Blazek also credits her acceptance to her Drake Fulbright adviser and other faculty who helped her apply and revise her application. Thirty-five Drake students have received Fulbright scholarships since 2000, according to Drake’s student publication, The Times-Delphic.
“A lot of people, even other Americans, may have never met a North Dakotan,” Blazek said. “I’m humbled, excited and grateful to represent the U.S. and a piece of Fargo.”
Readers can reach education reporter Emma Beyer, a Report For America corps member, at 701-241-5535 or email@example.com.