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  • Sarah McClanahan

College of Education graduate Sarah Jayne McClanahan travels to Indonesia for Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship

The US Fulbright Student Program has announced its 35 English Teaching Assistantships to Indonesia. Sarah Jayne McClanahan, a 2014 College of Education Higher Education and Student Affairs graduate, is one of them.


English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) recipients are chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential, and are awarded grants to study, teach, research, and collaborate on issues of shared international concern in over 155 countries.

McClanahan made the decision several years ago to be a life-long learner, and believes that teaching is the core of that pursuit. McClanahan says, “Teachers are simply students with a little more experience, and I love the challenge of helping others reach their educational potential.” 

McClanahan earned the Paul Montgomery MacMillan, III Memorial Fellowship, was the Vice-President of Chi Sigma AlphaStudent Affairs Honor Society, an EMPOWER Diversity Graduate Mentor, an EPI (English Programs for Internationals) Language Partner, a U101 co-instructor, a coordinator with the Buddies Beyond Borders program, and worked as a graduate assistant in International Student Services. 

Her East Asia-Pacific Fulbright assignment is in the East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia where she will teach 10th-12th grade conversational English at the Atambua SMKN 1 vocational school near the border of Indonesia and East Timor. No Fulbright teacher has ever been placed there before as it is a new city that Fulbright has recently included. “That makes me a bit anxious,” says McClanahan. “I am a mix of emotions! I have no idea what’s in store, but am thrilled at the opportunity. I’m excited to be a cultural ambassador for the U.S. and share my knowledge of the English language. All new adventure! All new experiences!”

The 9-month ETA experience for McClanahan began with her departure on August 25 to attend a three-week orientation in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 1. She received basic instruction in teaching methodologies as a part of the in-country orientation from the American Indonesian Exchange Foundation (AMINEF), which will oversee McClanahan’s ETA appointment.

Her focus will be to improve foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States, while increasing her own language skills and knowledge of Indonesia. McClanahan will spend approximately 20 hours per week teaching alongside English teachers in the classroom, plus requisite class preparation time and school-related activities will be required. ETAs may also pursue individual study and research plans, in addition to their teaching responsibilities. 

The primary activity of the ETA program is not teaching English as a foreign language, but is assisting English teachers who are teaching in Indonesian schools. Because of visa and permit restrictions, it is not possible for ETAs in Indonesia to undertake an independent research project. However, ETAs are encouraged to seek opportunities for cultural enrichment to enhance their overall Fulbright experience.

“Civic engagement is a passion of mine,” says McClanahan. “I would love to teach subjects such as cross-cultural communication and introductory English within the community. I plan to become involved with the Indonesian Heritage Society to further my cultural immersion. As a classically trained musician, I wish to volunteer with local music groups and learn to play the suling and the angklung (bamboo instruments).”

Upon her return from her Indonesian ETA, McClanahan plans to focus her career in international education, with plans to pursue a Ph.D. in International Education Policy. Additionally, she plans to get involved with NAFSA: Association of International Educators while continuing the pursuit of strong educational ties between the US and the rest of the world.

“The Higher Education and Student Affairs program is unique in its phenomenal practical experience it offers,” touts McClanahan, “and has an outstanding reputation across the nation. I was excited about the prospect of pursuing this degree at Carolina, and I knew it would build me as an educator, as well as a global citizen. Within the past year, I have presented ten different cross-cultural competence training sessions, and this past spring, the Journal of International Students published my article, “The Global Neighborhood: The Importance of International Living-Learning Communities.”

McClanahan’s HESA advisor Jenny Bloom describes McClanahan as having outstanding oral and written communication skills. “I have seen Sarah present during class on an assigned topic and found Sarah to be an enthusiastic and engaging presenter” conveys Bloom. “Her eyes come alive when she speaks and her passion for life is always evident. Sarah is focused, passionate, and mature. Her love and passion for working with international students is a beautiful thing to observe, and the people of Indonesia will indeed be blessed to have the opportunity to learn from her. Allowing Sarah this opportunity to live her passion will truly make the world a better place.”

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