May 22, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

Emily Pope is captivated by the history, archeology and culture of the Middle East.

In the fall of 2011, Emily Pope lived and studied in Egypt through a program sponsored by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. She toured Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Turkey. She visited the ancient Nabataean city of Petra. (“You could keep going back and never get bored with it,” she said.) She also visited Istanbul and was swept up in the romance of that city’s architecture and history. Pope returned for her junior year at Calvin and started reading about the Middle East, taking classes about the Middle East. She joined the Middle East Club. She eventually led the Middle East Club.

“I don’t know exactly why it captures my imagination,” she said of the region.  

Pope, now a graduating senior who studied philosophy, environmental studies and international development, is returning to Turkey via a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Program. She will live in a (yet-to-be-identified) coastal town, teaching English while learning Turkish.

A record Fulbright year

Pope’s Fulbright is the third awarded to a Calvin student this year—a record for the college. Chemistry major Lauren Manck will study seagrasses at a university in Cadiz, Spain, and political science major Ryan DeVries will teach English in an ESL classroom in Kaohsiong, Taiwan. (Both students graduated in May.)

“Having three students win Fulbrights in a single year will put Calvin in select company among liberal arts colleges across the country,” said history professor Bruce Berglund, the administrator of Calvin’s student Fulbright program. “The awards that Emily, Lauren, and Ryan won this year, as well as those won by other students in recent years, are testament to the quality of international programs at the college, both the foreign-language and content courses available here at Calvin and the off-campus programs. All three students took full advantage of the international opportunities available at Calvin and in partnership with other organizations.”

Pope’s education on the Middle East has been enriched by her work outside the classroom. She researched with an interim class in Umm-el-Jimal, Jordan, an archeological site excavated for the last 30 years by history professor Bert de Vries. She has worked with Healing the Children of Conflict, an organization that gives medical treatment to Iraqi children and fosters ties between their families and the United States.

“In Jordan she documented local Arab culture, and for HCC she documented our efforts to cope with war-caused suffering,” de Vries said. “These two areas represent the poles of her fascination with people who exist outside her own comfort sphere. Her talent is translating that fascination into effective results through down-to-earth activism.” Pope has also served an internship with Bethany Christian Services, teaching immigrant women to be childcare providers.

Intersection of cultures

“Her lifestyle of engagement in the community … shows she is ready and open to the challenges and the rewards the year ahead will bring her,” said history professor Doug Howard, whose recent awarding of an NEH grant will allow him to study in Turkey this summer.

Pope’s travels—including three trips to Morocco while she was in high school—gave her an interest in Muslim culture: “I grew up thinking that Islam was separate from Christianity, but I’m trying to find the things they share,” she said.

She hopes that her Fulbright year will lay a foundation for graduate work in geography and Turkish studies. Pope also hopes to teach some day. “I love making relationships with students and finding what they need to learn and helping them get there,” she said.  

Ryan DeVries receives Fulbright to teach English in Taiwan

Lauren Manck receives Fulbright to study seagrasses in Spain

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