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KARA PEMBERTON, Malaysia, 2018-2019

KARA PEMBERTON
Fulbright Year: 2018-2019
Country: Malaysia
Proposal Type: English Teaching Assistantship
UGA Undergraduate Major: Anthropology and Entertainment and Media Studies
Graduation Date: Spring 2018
Hometown: Statesboro, Georgia

Kara Pemberton has a variety of interests—dance, anthropology, filmmaking, social and environmental issues, and Southeast Asian culture, to list but a few—but her favorite pastime is sharing stories.

“Throughout my time at UGA, I have been pursuing people’s stories,” says Kara, who will spend her Fulbright year teaching English in Malaysia.

Kara developed her technical storytelling prowess while reporting for WUGA-FM, producing her own documentaries and working on others’ projects. She also served as a production assistant for the iconic Peabody Awards.

And she’s found stories working for community service agencies, studying abroad, and teaching dance, among other pursuits.

Fortified by a degree in anthropology and planning to become a medical anthropologist who makes documentaries, Kara has studied cultural anthropology and photojournalism in Bali, Indonesia, which led to her desire to travel to Malaysia and other Southeast Asian locales.

“After studying abroad in Bali, Indonesia, the summer of my sophomore year, I developed a strong interest in Southeast Asia,” says Kara. “It’s an area much of the Western world is unaware of Malaysia, with its mix of Eastern and Western influences, changing political sphere, split between modern infrastructure and lush-but-endangered rainforests, and diversity of ethnicities and faiths, is an ideal place for immersion and future scholarship.”

Kara, a UGA Honors International Scholar in 2016 and CURO Symposium presenter in 2017, taught for seven years for the Society for Creative Anachronism, which is dedicated to medieval research and reenactment. While in Athens she introduced countless students to the joys of cutting a rug as president of the Swing Dance Club, an instructor with the Medieval and Renaissance Society, and a counselor for the Atlanta Ballet Camp.

“Every time I teach, I try something a little different, to see what techniques work best for my students,” she says. “I jump into the dance rotation as much as possible to have an opportunity to dance with the students and give more specific feedback. I’ve found the best method of teaching is to get students active and immersed as soon as possible.”

She plans to present her English lessons in the same manner she teaches dance—by serving as instructor and facilitator.

“As an English Teaching Assistant, I would have conversation time during every class to challenge the students to practice what they just learned,” says Kara. “I would also have games for them to play to learn new words.”

Kara is also looking forward to continuing to teach dance.

“I plan to work with any community center (in Malaysia) to hold new dance classes or work in cooperation with ones that already exist,” she says. “I’d like to share the forms of dance I know, from ballet to Lindy hop to hip-hop, and to help improve or volunteer at any current facility. I also plan to get my students involved in their community and have them participate in service after school, like volunteering to pick up trash or take care of animals at the local shelter.”

Kara’s Fulbright experience will not only place Southeast Asian culture more readily in her grasp but will also continue to inform her desire to tell stories.

“As storytellers, whether through social science or film, we have a responsibility to faithfully represent our subject’s stories,” she says. “I want to delve into Malaysian culture and history in order to bring authentic stories of it to the rest of the world and I want to teach in Malaysia to bring authentic stories of the United States and English to my students.”