Kalona man makes Fulbright program
PELLA—A Kalona native and graduate of Central College, has been accepted to the Fullbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) program.
“I’m still on Cloud 9 from the whole thing,” Gregory Teets said. “I found out on April 11. I was at work and all of a sudden my phone started blowing up. I received an e-mail from Fullbright first, then received an e-mail from my advisor, Maria Snyder, and then I got an e-mail from the college.”
Central College has not had a student in the Fullbright program since 1987, Teets said. There were 366 applications sent in. So far 100 of those applicants have been picked for the Fullbright ETA program.
Teets will travel to Malaysia next January for 10 months to teach English.
To prepare himself, Teets is learning the main language, called Malay.
“Malay is the official language of the country,” he said. “There are four different cultural groups, sub-groups, in Malaysia, that have their own dialects. There are people from India, Chinese, Malay, and indigenous groups.”
He won’t know what part of the country he will be assigned to until possibly June.
“I have an orientation in Washington, D.C., in June and that’s probably where I’ll find out more about where I’m going,” Teets said.
Originally, Malaysia wasn’t his first choice when he was looking at places to go. Teets studied Spanish in high school and graduated with a minor in Spanish. In 2011 he traveled abroad for a semester to Spain and always thought he would have a Fullbright ETA award to a Spanish-speaking country.
“When I first started looking at countries I looked at Spanish-speaking countries,” he said. “I started reading some of the ETA logs [articles from other Fullbright recipients] and thought those were very nice but I just didn’t see myself clicking or being there.”
He decided to look into going to a part of the world he had not traveled to before.
“I read a Malaysian log and the first one that popped up sounded like fun,” Teets said. “I began thinking I could see myself there.”
He thought and prayed about it for a while, but something happened when he was out one day that made the decision for him.
“I went to pay for my coffee and a Malaysian coin appeared in my wallet,” Teets said. “I have never seen a Malaysian coin until then, so I saw it as a sign for me to apply to go there.”
Last fall, Teets sent his application in for the Fullbright ETA program. While he was waiting to hear from the Fullbright program he graduated from Central College.
His major was an Integrated Studies Major and his course of study was People and Cultural Perspectives. His interest in different cultures around the world didn’t happen until college.
“My freshman year I did a mission trip to Mexico and I really enjoyed that,” Teets said. “I started out as a psychology major in school, then switched to sociology, and after I came back from Spain in 2011 I switched my major to the Integrated Studies major with People and Cultural Perspectives.”
His parents, Linda and Jerry Teets of Kalona, were excited to hear about Gregory’s acceptance to the program.
“We’re super excited,” Linda said. “I just had a feeling he would get it. I knew he was really qualified. He’s taken classes on how to teach English to people and has done volunteer services in Des Moines where he taught English in multi-cultural backgrounds.”
Both Gregory and Linda said the 10 months away from each other would be hard. However, they plan on keeping in touch through Skype and e-mail.
“It’s sort of hard to let your kids go, but I know it’s the right opportunity for him,” Linda said. “It’s exciting—it’s almost like we get to experience it in a small way, just by hearing about it.”