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Helping elephants, guiding puppets: Graduates continue their education in Asia

By Sarita Chourey

The basics of moving nearly 10,000 miles away are simple: pack breathable clothing, get vaccinations. It’s the other steps – mentally preparing to embrace a very different way of life – that call for more reflection.

But three 2019 graduates are ready for their journey.

They are interning in Japan and Thailand through program, spearheaded by Associate Professor of History Lane Harris, called the Freeman Foundation International Internship Program. In 2017, Furman joined with the Freeman Foundation, which provides up to $6,000 to enable students and recent graduates to live and work in East or Southeast Asia for at least six weeks. The Internship Office, as part of Furman’s Center for Engaged Learning, provides $2,000 per student.

At the start of their their internships, three graduates shared details about what they’ll be doing and how they prepared:

Patrick Fretwell, theatre arts and communication studies, ’19 | Studying traditional Bunraku puppetry in Japan

What: “For four days of the week, I’ll be training and learning. For each puppet, you have to have three people operating it. The idea is for fluid motion. You have to be connected to the people you’re working with. It’s also one of those things that can be very intimate with audience members.”

Why: “I want to experience a different perspective on theater and life. I value being uncomfortable now and then. I think it really makes you stronger and value what you do have. I think it will be a challenge, but I love a good challenge.”

How: “The Freeman Foundation is one of very few programs that provides students a stipend to go and do an internship – even after they graduate – which is a really special thing that Furman does for its students.”

What he’ll miss: “Pizza. Italian pasta. My favorite dish in the world is chicken parm, and I won’t have that for two months.”

Finley Buchanan, studio art, ’19 | Studying elephants in Thailand through GVI

What: “We’re staying with host families. We wake up early, then we hit the trail. We look in the woods for (formerly captive) elephants that have been re-released into the wild. The goal is to find and observe them and to make sure they are integrating into the environment. In the afternoon, we will help teach English to the villagers.”

Why: “I love travel, along with art. I can do art anywhere, especially because I love watercolor and watercolor is very portable. So, I figured this would be the best opportunity for me to get experience outside of art but also with art in another culture, because the villagers will teach us some of their traditions. I’ve heard rumors of basket weaving.”

How: “I’m a planner, so I was like, ‘I have to figure out what I’m doing the moment I graduate.’ I found the Freeman Foundation and the incredible fellowship they do. I get to do this basically for free!”

Prepping for the trip: “I got the typhoid vaccination, the encephalitis series of shots, malaria pills and booster tetanus shots. Vaccinations are a part of my budget that I didn’t expect to be so large.”

Colleen Christensen, public health, ’19 | Studying elephants in Thailand through GVI

What: “Elephants are a big part of tourism in Thailand, and a lot of time they’re at these camps where they’re not treated well and they’re overworked. It’s really sad, so this program is taking elephants out of those situations and reintroducing them into the wild. They’ll train me on what certain behaviors mean and how they’re settling back into their natural environment.”

Why: “It’s definitely related to my career goals. I’m really interested in the cultural effects of health attitudes and health beliefs. I’m really excited about this opportunity, because it’s a very different culture than I’ve ever experienced. I’ve studied abroad in developed parts of the world, but this is going to be a more rural, off-the-grid experience.”

How: “I was walking through the library, and there was a map with a pushpin board that said:

‘Where in the world would you like to travel?’ I put my pin in Thailand because Thailand is a country that’s always fascinated me. The friend I was with told me about the Freeman Fellowship and how even as graduating seniors, we’re still eligible for funding.”

What she’s packing: “I’ve been shopping for linen pants, because I have to cover my legs — but it’s so hot out there. I’m bringing bug spray, because it’s high-mosquito season and dengue fever is prevalent.”


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