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Worldly Education

Caroline Purtell

Matt McGrath knew he wanted to leave the country as soon as he graduated from college, so in 1996 he became certified to teach English overseas and landed a job in Surabaya, Indonesia. His first experience living abroad proved both shocking and fascinating but, more important, led to even more unique cultural experiences. He’s not only worked as a camp counselor in Western Siberia, for example, but has visited India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Now McGrath, a 1999 M.Ed. graduate, teaches Global Issues—a mix of political science, geography, macroeconomics and world cultures—at an all-girls Catholic high school in Northern Kentucky.

“My travels are where a lot of the material for the class comes from, and that’s really why I love teaching it so much. It combines the two parts of my life together,” McGrath says.

His travels, however, are far from over.

This year the U.S. Department of Education awarded McGrath and eight other teachers from around the country a four-week Fulbright-Hays trip to Jordan.

“I wanted to go into the heart of the Middle East because it’s integral to the class and I had never been there before,” he says. “The Fulbright program offered me a way to learn about the Arab world in a comprehensive way that I never could have done independently.” McGrath left in June for Jordan, where he took Arabic language lessons two hours a day, met with members of the Hashemite royal family, attended lectures, visited biblical and cultural sites, snorkeled in the Red Sea, camel-trekked in the Wadi Rum desert and took a walking tour of the Al-Baqa Palestinian refugee camp near Amman. He’s now taking what he learned back to his classroom.

“The overall goal for me was to gather as many materials as possible for the Global Issues unit on the Middle East and then disseminate that info as widely as I can.”

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