“Nice to meet you.” “I’d like the fried rice.”
Those are just a couple of phrases C of I biology Professor Luke Daniels is practicing as he prepares to travel to Indonesia next month. Daniels, who was awarded a U.S. Fulbright Senior Scholar Teaching Award, will spend a semester teaching cell biology and computational biology at Gadjah Mada University in the city of Yogyakarta.
“I’ve always enjoyed traveling to see different places and different cultures,” Daniels said. “But, I’ve never lived abroad for this long.”
Out of the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia, Daniels will be on the country’s most populated—Java—which has 130 million inhabitants and is home to the capital city of Jakarta.
Daniels always imagined he’d teach abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, thanks to his knowing the language and having visited Central and South America. But the biomedical emphasis of Indonesia’s Fulbright program aligned perfectly with his teaching specialty.
Indonesia has a goal of bolstering its STEM programs. Though it is the fourth-most populous country in the world, it doesn’t even crack the top-20 in scientific research output, measured by publications.
“Part of what they want from faculty exchanges is to boost their own infrastructure for biomedical research,” Daniels said. “What I’m hoping to do there is to teach undergraduate programs and show how we [in the U.S.] incorporate students in undergraduate research. It’s a cultural exchange too, for me to learn about things they do differently which I can incorporate [at the C of I].”
And though his Indonesian is self-admittedly not the best, that doesn’t really matter. Daniels will have his own interpreter in the form of his wife, who spent 10 years in Indonesia growing up. Also joining them will be Daniels’ eight-year-old and four-year-old sons. His eight-year-old is excited to see the different types of animals and go swimming in the warm South Pacific Ocean. And the four-year-old?
“Our four-year-old has no idea,” Daniels said. “We were in Seattle over spring break last year and he said, ‘We didn’t see any geckos.’ I had to tell him, no, that wasn’t Indonesia, that was Seattle.”
While Daniels is excited to come face-to-face with a foreign culture and explore Indonesia’s dense rainforests, active volcanoes and tropical oceans, he’s also looking forward to making long-term collaborations with Indonesian faculty members and see what common research interests they may share.
He’s also interested to see how Indonesian college students compare and contrast to their American counterparts. The thought of connecting with students who don’t have the same share cultural experiences has Daniels nervous and excited at the same time. To combat those barriers, he plans to have as many interactive lessons as possible, and maybe even join them at the lunch table.
“I’m hoping that I can just ask students, ‘Hey, take me to where you eat lunch,’” Daniels said. “I can go eat with some students and flounder around and be the dumb American who doesn’t know anything.”
The entire process of teaching abroad has been about three years in the making—from researching Fulbright programs, making contacts in Indonesia, putting together his application and being accepted. Now, only one month separates Daniels from a trip he and his family will never forget.
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