Thursday, April 30, 2015

Julia Julstrom-Agoyo, of Chicago, Illinois, has received a 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Student Award for an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Malaysia.

Julia will graduate this spring from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in international studies with a focus in human rights, a certificate in sustainability, and minors in political science and Spanish. Julia plans to use this opportunity to create a dialogue about the cultures and values of Malaysian and American people in terms of the arts, environment and values, and to build friendships.

Julia Julstom-Agoyo

Julia will travel to Malaysia this fall to work as an English Teaching Assistant on a 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Student Grant

Julia says her initial interest in Malaysia began was sparked during a Southeast Asia politics course that opened her eyes to the unique ethnic and religious diversity of the Malaysian population whose blend of Malay, Chinese, and Indian people have come together to form a rich new culture.

Drawing from her experience as an intern for the University of Iowa’s Center for Human Rights, Julia hopes to engage with her local community in Malaysia by creating a group that discusses and addresses human rights topics related to environmental health and immigration issues. Malaysia is a nation affected by deforestation and air pollution, and Julia hopes to help implement sustainability projects such as planting trees and brainstorming with the community about sustainable cultivation methods.

Her desire to help others was influenced by her Peruvian roots, especially after visiting the country the summer before her last year of high school, Julia says. Although her mother is from Peru, Julia says she felt disconnected from her Peruvian heritage growing up and wanted to spend some time in Peru connecting with her family and culture. After a few weeks there, she felt compelled to travel to more places and for longer periods of time. She wanted to pursue opportunities that would allow her to explore different cultures while also giving back.

“My time in Peru influenced my college pursuits,” Julia explains. “I declared an International Studies major as I was interested in understanding world conflicts. Those that flickered across my television screen at night made me ask myself: what can I do to help?”

“Since that summer, and multiple college courses later, I am more committed to the goal of contributing to the community. More specifically, I have become passionate about pursuing human rights work abroad,” Julia says.

It was this passion that led her to study and conduct research in Rwanda for a challenging and impactful semester abroad, and ultimately, apply for her Fulbright grant.

Julia has a background in teaching with a variety of populations – from tutoring a twelve-year-old student struggling in math who later went on to win the Math Student of the Year Award to teaching English to Korean university students over Skype. Julia was one of six students selected for the pilot course Global@Iowa, which matches new international students with peer mentors and was also a tutor in a variety of language, environmental and international relations courses for the TRIO campus program that caters to underrepresented or low-income students at the UI.

Using the skills she has developed from these varied experiences, Julia will lead Malaysian high school students in English classes focused on interactive activities that include dances, games and skits on practical topics like navigating public transportation or buying food at a market.

Having previously participated in dance classes during her time abroad in Costa Rica, Mexico and Rwanda, Julia is particularly interested learning the traditional Joget Melayu dance as a way to connect with Malaysian culture.

“As I learn, I can also share my skills in American dance and music including my skills in piano, violin and the ukulele,” Julia says.

As Julia returns to the U.S., she plans to pursue her passion for human rights by working at an international refugee camp. After, she hopes to attend law school for international law and human rights. She will then work to protect and promote the universal rights to education, health, and a peaceful life.

“Throughout my travels, I have become passionate about remaining respectful and culturally sensitive by working in partnership with the community,” Julia says.

“I am looking forward to discovering a new home and community away from my own and to learning about another culture.”

Julia is one of 13 Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant winners from the University of Iowa for 2015-16. See the full list of winners
The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. For more information on applying for a Fulbright through the University of Iowa, visit our Fulbright page.