Malaysia is music to Manchester's newest Fulbright, Holly Rittenhouse

Holly Rittenhouse knew her destination from the moment she stepped on the Manchester campus four years ago: She would teach.

What she never imagined is where she would teach.

Next January, Holly will travel 9,400 miles from her small Indiana hometown to teach English in Malaysia. The gregarious senior is Manchester University’s 29th and newest Fulbright – recipient of the U.S. government’s most prestigious grant to college students.

The senior from rural Portland doesn’t speak Malay and has never traveled to Asia. Indeed, when Holly enrolled at Manchester, she could not imagine leaving this country or her family. She also didn’t expect the global perspective of MU campus life, and the opportunities to teach – and learn – abroad.

During her junior year, at the urging of a good friend and faculty mentors, Holly lived in Ecuador for five months with a family who spoke only Spanish.
“’Good morning, Teacher!’ the third-grade students greeted me every day at the school in Quito, Ecuador, where I volunteered in an English class,” recalls Holly of her life-changing semester with BCA Abroad.

“I will never forget their hugs, smiles and bright eyes welcoming me to the classroom. In this tiny classroom I decided that teaching English as a second language would be my career.”

The following summer, she taught English to local Spanish speakers and taught bilingual children how to read Spanish. “I learned that teaching English as a second (or foreign) language means passing on an invaluable tool which students can use to change their lives,” Holly told the Fulbright committee.

“The adults I taught learned English words and phrases which they immediately used to improve their work performance, and the children I worked with learned to read the language they speak at home every day.”

Today, Holly is still practicing her teaching and learning during a 150-hour student teaching practicum with the Chicago Center for Urban Life & Culture. She commutes to Inter-American Magnet School, a public school where ethnically, economically and linguistically diverse students develop high levels of linguistic proficiency in English and Spanish.

On May 18, Holly will graduate from Manchester University with high honors and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education with minors in Spanish and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

As a Fulbright ambassador for the United States, Holly also hopes to use music to teach and share her culture. Her mother is a music teacher and Holly has been active in A Cappella Choir and Chamber Singers at Manchester.

“I fuel my soul through music,” she told the Fulbright committee, which favored Malaysia applicants who combine their TESOL talent with other skills, such as music and athletics.

Since 1996, a total of 29 Manchester students have received Fulbright grants for research or teaching abroad after graduation. The Fulbright Program awards 8,000 grants annually, operating in more than 155 countries.

April 2014

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