Come February 2019, Emily Strobaugh ’18 will be thousands of miles away from home on a new adventure in Brazil, an opportunity she earned after receiving the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship that will allow her to work as an English Teaching Assistant for nine months.
Strobaugh’s journey leading to Brazil was filled with many accomplishments and humbling experiences. As an Honor’s College graduate who received her bachelor’s in both global studies and English Literature, along with a minor in human development and family studies, Strobaugh is no stranger to the meaning of hard work.
Always fascinated by how books can transport us to different worlds remaining grounded in their themes, drew Strobaugh to her course of study, English Literature, but it wasn’t until she served as a 2016 intern for World Relief that she found a passion for human development and family studies. As a summer intern, she worked in Nashville, Tenn. at the refugee resettlement agency, where she taught business English, edited client’s resumes and helped secure entry-level positions for recently settled refugees. It was there she learned the importance of using holistic approaches and ideas to treat social problems.
“I saw the necessity of each family member’s happiness in the whole family’s quality of life,” Strobaugh said. “For the kids to be okay, the parents need to be okay. The only way that works for the parents is if they have appropriate employment.”
If Auburn has taught or reinforced anything, she says, it is that family is one of the most important things you need to succeed. She experienced firsthand the importance of family, not only at World Relief but in Fiji, where she was comfortable in taking risks and living a life that consisted of the bare minimum because she had an entire village surrounding her with love.
“When I got back to Auburn, I always had that same Auburn family to come back to, whether that meant the general atmosphere or the supportive faculty. Family is absolutely the biggest reason I am successful today.”
Teaching business English classes at World Relief, she helped her clients learn the most intricate parts of the English language as it relates to business. Her lessons ranged from how to write
professional emails and give presentations to making small talk and basic practices in the workplace. All of her clients had to be a refugee or an immigrant with a bachelor’s degree or higher, meaning she was working with doctors and engineers who had recently moved to the U.S. and were most likely working as assembly line workers or receptionists.
“Our main priority was to help them get their foot in the door, expand their professional networks and find appropriate employment to enhance their quality of life.”
That following summer, following her passion for helping others, Strobaugh participated in a permaculture internship with the College of Human Sciences’ Sustainability in Action study abroad program in Fiji and New Zealand. Her time there taught her valuable lessons about being environmentally conscious and the grave importance of sustainability. Spending a summer with no electricity, garbage disposal or running water allowed her to see firsthand the effects of water conservation and using food in a way that creates the least amount of waste.
“One privilege we have as Americans is being extremely removed from production, so we are not emotionally connected anymore to systems like agriculture or the environment. We are removed from the feedback loops that other countries are more in tune to.”
Throwing away half of our plate of food or tossing paper after we printed the wrong thing makes no difference to us she says, but on the island, she was taught how to utilize products until there was no more use in it.
“In America, if I picked up a raw coconut, I would probably just drink the water and throw it away, but in Fiji, we would drink the water, shave the meat, squeeze the milk from the shavings, separate the milk to make coconut oil, and then put the husks in the fire because it burns better than wood.”
Her time in Fiji not only influenced her to be more environmentally conscious but also allowed her to utilize her skills in both literature and global studies. Strobaugh helped create beekeeping manuals for entry-level bee farmers as a way to give back to the community. The lessons she learned creating and teaching others is something she says she will take with her with the Fulbright family in Brazil.
The process of receiving the Fulbright Scholarship was an incredibly humbling experience, she says. Strobaugh initially did not receive the original scholarship she applied for and had plans to attend Georgetown University for graduate school. But, a month later, she received an email informing her there was funding for Brazil, another opportunity to follow her passion. She turned down her acceptance into Georgetown and will soon be placed in a school in Brazil to teach English and design a community project centered around sustainable agriculture, permaculture and local farming practices.
“I was so honored to be part of a scholarship year where not only did Auburn have the most Fulbright awards, but all of the recipients were women!”
In the meantime, Strobaugh is working for a sustainable lighting company, LED Connection, staying close to a cause that is important to her. She connects with places like manufacturing plants and corporations who haven’t upgraded their lighting to LED yet, giving them options that are sustainable and profitable for their business.
“One of my favorite concepts of sustainability is to be passionate enough about a cause that you are willing to plant seeds in a garden that you may not see bloom. At Auburn University, I developed more comfort in focusing on a long-term solution through the hope and infectious energy that from pedagogy. I can’t wait to start planting my own seeds for a better future in Brazil.”