David Stentiford, recent 27-year-old University of Nevada, Reno master’s degree graduate in English with a focus in literature and environment, originally applied to go to Nepal on an English Teaching Assistantship funded by the Fulbright Program.
But when he received the assistantship, he also got a surprise.
Instead of going to Nepal this upcoming October, he will be going to Sri Lanka.
Despite the shock, Stentiford is taking the unexpected change of destination to be an opportunity to learn about a culture, understand differing perspectives and hone his teaching skills.
“Sri Lanka was sort of a surprise,” Stentiford said. “But it will be exciting. I think that the teaching situation will be similar so I suppose in that respect I’ll be doing the same thing. That’s not terribly worrisome.”
Once in Sri Lanka this October, Stentiford will teach English as a secondary language in secondary school for the next nine months. His destination remains undisclosed, but he hopes to find out more at a weeklong orientation in June at Washington D.C.
Though Stentiford’s previous research on how narratives and perceptions of landscapes influence the way the environment is impacted will not continue while he is at Sri Lanka, he hopes to learn more about Sri Lankan ideas of ecology and the environment.
“In Sri Lanka and in India, especially in the Tamil Culture, they have different ideas of what ecology and how it’s tied to culture,” Stentiford said.
He also hopes to understand more about how globalization is affecting perceptions of the environment.
“I’ve been interested in Asia and Southeast Asia as modernization changes the environment,” he said. “The changes occurring in Southeast Asia are interesting to me in their rapid development and the problems that this poses.”
Stentiford plans to draw on his teaching experience with the Core Writing program in the English Department while teaching in Sri Lanka. While he is armed with previous teaching experience, Stentiford knows he will face several language barriers.
“They speak Sinhala, Tamil, and English,” Stentiford said. “I’m going to spend most of my time between now and then studying conversational Sinhala. I think learning the language myself will sort of keep me in constant mindfulness of what the students are trying to achieve. It will be an opportunity for collaborative learning.”
While there, he plans to start a project that will allow students to publish some of their work.
“I want to engage with the students in the broader community,” he said. “There will be some self-publishing with some students – to create a space where they can publish some writing and perhaps some visual art. I hope to suggest that publishing is feasible and that writing can be imaginative, emotional, and rooted in human experience.”
Following the stay in Sri Lanka, Stentiford hopes to continue teaching literature or environmental studies.
“Ideally I would like to stay in the West though I foresee myself anywhere in the U.S.,” he said.