Another globe-trotting experience

CSB graduate and Fulbright winner ready for Malaysia

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July 27, 2015

By Tommy Benson '17

Jenna Maus near the Burj Al Arab, Dubai.

Jenna Maus chose to stay close to home to attend the College of Saint Benedict. But her education has taken the native of Kimball, Minnesota, around the globe.

Maus, who graduated in May with degrees in political science and peace studies, has gone abroad three times: once to the United Arab Emirates for the Women as Global Leaders Conference; once for a fall semester study abroad program in Austria; and is currently completing an internship in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She also participated in the Washington, D.C., Summer Study Program, and had the opportunity to present her thesis regarding the public's perception of Islam at the University of Notre Dame.

Despite her travels, she still has a thirst for adventure. Maus will take a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) award to Malaysia, joining fellow CSB graduate Victoria Adofoli in the country. She leaves for Malaysia in January.

The Fulbright ETA program places U.S. students as English teaching assistants in schools and universities overseas. The teaching assistants improve foreign students' English abilities and knowledge of the U.S., while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country. The students may also pursue individual study/research plans in addition to their teaching responsibilities. 

Maus chose to work in Malaysia because she wanted to do her post-graduate work in a Muslim-dominated community. She has had a strong interest in Islam since she traveled to the United Arab Emirates her first year at CSB. She hopes to further her understanding of the Islamic culture, and wants to work in the intelligence field and international affairs, with the Middle East as a concentration.

Malaysia's constitution protects religious freedom with some exceptions, according to the U.S. Department of State. Just over 61 percent of the population practices Islam.

Maus has struck up a dialogue with past and current Fulbright ETAs from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, which prepared Maus for what she calls "a complete 360 from what I'm used to."

"I have learned from a few current and past Fulbright Scholars that their biggest challenge was making their students comfortable with them. So, I think my biggest challenge could be making that initial connection with my students," Maus said.

But rather than discourage her, the obstacles the Fulbright winners have described have only made her more eager for the experience.

"I'm excited for the struggle, the chance to improve my critical thinking, and to learn how to creatively engage those with diverse backgrounds," Maus said.

She said she was not nervous about being placed in a world completely foreign to her. She cited her ability to adapt to foreign places, a skill she picked up while utilizing CSB/SJU's study abroad and summer internship opportunities.

"I have had the fortunate opportunity to visit a variety of different places and live in different environments. This adaptability has helped me become resourceful, which I believe will be extremely beneficial to me living in rural Malaysia where I will not have a lot of the same amenities that I have at home," Maus said.

CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2016-17 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU.