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USM Education alumna awarded Fulbright to teach in Indonesia

Portrait photo of USM alumna Amy Quirion

After teaching immigrant children from Somalia, Djibouti, Angola, Congo and Kenya in Maine classrooms, USM alumna Amy Quirion wants to use her skills as an English teacher abroad.

And she's doing it as a Fulbrighter.

The 2016 graduate has received a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award to Indonesia.

"I really wanted to step out of my comfort zone," said Quirion, who leaves in July for the country some 10,000 miles away.

She hopes to experience some of the same emotions felt by her third grade English language learners at Lewiston's James B. Longley Elementary School.

Some of the children know several languages. All are adjusting to life in the Maine city, she said.

"A lot of them come with trauma in their backgrounds," she said. "It's scary for them and a big culture shock. I guess I want to step into their shoes and see what the culture shock is like for me." 

She's not sure what to expect.

All she knows is that she'll be teaching high school-aged children and she'll be somewhere in the distant Southeast Asian country. She'll get a detailed assignment in June in Washington. She is due to leave one month later.

"I have been looking at all the different parts of Indonesia," she said. "I know there are over 18,000 islands. It's very cultured. It's very diverse. There are a lot of languages spoken there."

Learning languages has not been a particular chore for Quirion, who grew up in Connecticut to French Canadian parents. Her father came to the U.S. from Quebec when he was 12. Her mother left Quebec at 26. Quirion, a U.S. citizen, grew up speaking French at home and English in school.

"Doing that switch in your brain -- home to school -- is really very interesting to me," she said.

It led her to earn her master's degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Quirion is one of over 1,900 U.S. citizens who will conduct research, teach English, and provide expertise abroad for the 2017-2018 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

Though she's traveled to Canada and the Dominican Republic, this will be Quirion's first trip outside of North America.

"I am very ready," she said. "It's something that I have been dreaming about."