Hometown and University: Brooklyn, New York. I went to St. John’s University, majoring in History and minoring in Philosophy.
Fulbright ETA placement location and year: I was an ETA at SMK 1 in Tanjunpandan, Belitung Island, South Sumatra, for the 2013-2014 term.
Current City and Job: Portland, Maine. Field Organizer with Green Corps, the Field School for Environmental Organizing.
Life After Fulbright
Life after Fulbright has been a whirlwind of travel, meeting inspiring people, and doing valuable work. Less than a week after completing my Fulbright, I traveled to Warsaw, Poland for the Humanity in Action fellowship, a one-month program focusing on minority rights within the historical and contemporary context and, generally, to meet other inspiring young people who also want to dedicate their lives to helping others.
After traveling in Europe and (finally) resting at home, I began Green Corps. Green Corps is a one-year environmental activist fellowship, which includes 8 weeks of trainings, and traveling 2-3 different campaigns. In the fall, I led Food and Water Watch’s Corvallis, Oregon office for the “Oregon Right to Know” campaign to pass Measure 92, which would have labeled GMO foods. This past winter, I was in Burlington, Vermont with VPIRG working on Energy Independent Vermont campaign to pass the first carbon-pollution tax in the Untied States. This spring and summer, I will be a Canvass Director with Environment Maine working to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act.
I was also granted the amazing opportunity to be on the board of Planet Indonesia, a NGO founded by my friend, and fellow Fulbright alumnus, Adam Miller.
There’s a lot more I can expand on about my post-Fulbright experience. As you can imagine, I’ve been tested. I’ve had to join a campaign with only 2 months left to go until election day, and – without anyone there before me – mobilize a swing city and conservative university to vote the right way; I’ve had to help start-up a campaign that is still developing it’s own materials, language and campaign plans; I’ve met some incredible people, and some people who – to put it nicely – peaked my curiosity; I’ve worked more than I’ve hung out; I’ve made new friends and created greater distances with older ones; I’ve been around people a lot (if I’m doing my job right), and, yet, I’ve felt the loneliness of moving into a new city for only a temporary time.
And, all of this, is ok. Because Fulbright prepared me for it.
My Fulbright experience has been one of the most important experiences of my life. I don’t go a day without reminiscing about SMK 1 and Belitung Island. Many people didn’t speak English, and many people have never interacted with a white guy before. The opportunity to break stereotypes, make others realize our common humanity, and to live in their island paradise (oh, yeah, and teach English) was a treasured experience. Yet, what I value the most, was the absolute generosity of the people. They were the ones who did the teaching. Not me.
When I think about my Fulbright experience in Belitung, I think about the basketball and volleyball games after school, the motorcycle rides along the beach, the weddings, the living rooms I’ve sat in, and those conversations where everyone is laughing and don’t really understand each other, yet appreciating and living in the moment: the laughter mostly coming from my ridiculous New York accent and lack of elementary vocabulary words.
Yes, my Fulbright experience also included loneliness, boredom, frustration, and more confusion and randomness than what I’m accustomed to. But these experiences all tested and grew my character.
Belitung taught me to appreciate the qualitative, to live in the moment, to enjoy life, and that the world is massive yet humanity and cultures are so similar and different. It’s that paradox that Fulbright helped me explore, cherish, and ultimately utilize as a motivation to be an activist for a better environment and world for everyone.