Cole Christie isn’t exactly sure what he will encounter when his plane lands next January in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but he does know that his life will be changed forever.
The recent California State University, Northridge graduate has been awarded a Fulbright Student Scholarship. He leaves in January 2016 to spend a year working as an English teaching assistant in Malaysia.
“I know I’ll spend my first few weeks in the nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, getting acclimated, and then after that, who knows?” Christie said. “It’s exciting, and I am so looking forward to it.”
In addition to teaching English, Christie will work with secondary education students to help them develop leadership skills and their ability to work with others. He will be in Malaysia for a year.
Christie, who graduated last month with a bachelor’s degree in management and a minor in geography, said he had always wanted to study overseas, but was so involved on campus — from working with CSUN’s student Outdoor Adventures program and mentoring fellow students to helping train orientation leaders and leading team-building efforts for students and staff — he was afraid he would lose his “momentum” if he took a semester abroad.
He was working at student orientation last year when he heard a staff member with CSUN’s International and Exchange Student Center talk about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
“What I heard intrigued me,” Christie recalled.
Christie said he was interested in visiting Southeast Asia, but didn’t know where. He was researching countries when he stumbled upon Malaysia.
“It’s got three distinct cultures — Malay, Chinese and Indian,” he said. “Its population is so distinct, yet the country thrives. The country has a lot of strong values, and it’s been independent only about 60 years.
“I’ve always been in a place where I’ve been very comfortable,” Christie said. “I’ve never done anything out of my comfort zone. This Fulbright is different. I hope it helps me to realize how much I don’t know. I am also looking forward to observing another culture and bringing that back with me to use in a future business venture and help me in understanding people. Everything is socially based now. It’s important to know how to talk and work with people, with a strong and respectful understanding of their differences.”
Marta Lopez, director of CSUN’s international programs, said Christie’s appetite for knowledge and self-sufficiency have led to a passion for teaching. His extensive campus involvement and mentorship and volunteer efforts on and off campus have demonstrated strong leadership skills and a “strong desire to enrich the life experiences of others.”
“For this, the CSUN community is grateful, and we know that his experience in Malaysia will be very unique and enriching for Cole and those whose lives he will positively affect,” Lopez said.
The Fulbright Program is the leading international exchange program sponsored by the United State government. It is designed to provide students and professionals with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research worldwide. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides fellowships for U.S. graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to study abroad for one academic year.
“CSUN encourages all undergraduate and graduate students to consider participating in the program to advance their understanding of other cultures and to further their study and research endeavors,” Lopez said.
The Fulbright Program’s goal is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating government and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.