Gahanna Lincoln High School alumnus Matthew Kessler will spend the next year teaching English in Thailand, thanks to a grant through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Kessler, an English instructor for international students at Ohio University, is the son of Jeff and Kim Kessler of Gahanna and grandson of Chuck and Pat Kessler of Johnstown.
Chuck Kessler is a former principal, teacher and coach in Johnstown.
Matthew Kessler, 26, recently finished his master's degree in linguistics at Ohio University.
"I'm excited, but going to a new country by yourself for a year with no one you know is a big commitment," he said. "Once I'm done with training, all the people who received a Fulbright (grant) will split up and you're on your own."
Kessler applied for the grant at the beginning of the last academic year.
"There are lot of applications across the nation," he said. "Thailand had 150 applicants, and 20 were selected to go there and teach."
The 2006 Lincoln High School graduate completed his undergraduate work at Ohio University, took a year off and then finished his master's degree during the past year.
"One of my best friends, Mattada Nimsuwan, is from the northern part of Thailand," Kessler said. "I've grown up around her and her family and friends. They have a restaurant near Cleveland. I met a lot of her friends. Their restaurant was welcoming to me and my family."
Kessler met Nimsuwan while he was studying abroad in China about four years ago, he said. That's where his interest in teaching developed.
"We had to do individual tutoring," he said. "I got interested in teaching English abroad."
Kessler will leave Sept. 26 for Bangkok, where he will receive a month of training at a university.
"After that month, I'll head to a northern province and be there for 11 months," he said.
Kessler will teach middle and high school students at the Muang Chaliang school.
Kessler said he would have Internet access only at the school.
"I won't have Internet at the apartment I'll stay at," he said. "If I do blog, it will be at school after-hours."
During his year abroad, he said, his parents and brother plan to visit.
Kessler said a teaching position would be available to him at Ohio University when he returns in October 2014, but he doesn't want to make definite plans.
"I stopped making plans over a year ahead of time," he said. "It never seems to work out. I'll take it a year at a time. I'll see what happens at the end of next year."
Kessler is one of more than 1,700 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2013-14 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.
"Once you're application is approved, there are interviews by a three-member panel randomly selected," Kessler said. "They're people with expertise in that region. There was an oral exam in Thai as part of the interview. Based on the interview, they sent the recommendations to Fulbright."
The Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the federal government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
The primary source of funding for the Fulbright program is an annual appropriation made by Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Since its establishment in 1946, under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given nearly 318,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, scientists and other professionals the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education and many other fields.
Forty-four Fulbright alumni from 12 countries have been awarded the Nobel Prize, and 78 alumni have received Pulitzer Prizes.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education.