Valedictorian Lands Fulbright To Teach English in Indonesia

It was with a few good laughs that Jonathan Strahl’s friends responded to the news of his selection as valedictorian for the Class of 2007. This was a guy you’d more likely see at campus social events than tucked away in the library, ensuring the health of his GPA. Yet, just several days before Commencement last month, Strahl true to his reputation was at a party in San Diego when he got a call from the registrar’s office, naming him the Class of 2007 valedictorian.

During his four years at CMC as a dual history and psychology major, Strahl suffered just two minor nicks to his grade-point-average: two A-minuses. Not only did he earn the top academic achievement, but Strahl also was one of six seniors graduating with summa cum laude honors. News would soon follow that in addition to these accolades, he has received a Fulbright putting him in Indonesia for a year to teach high school English to at an Islamic boarding school.

Friends were surprised, if not befuddled.

“People who knew me thought I focused a lot on the social side of college life,” Strahl says with a laugh, from his hometown of Medford, Ore. “They didn’t know me in an academic context. But it’s not like I didn’t work. I had my priorities straight. I think it was all about good time management.”

If friends misdiagnosed his cavalier attitude, the record has since been set straight. Although sleeping in and enjoying some quiet time with his parents in Medford, Strahl’s schedule is ramping up. First of order of business has been learning the Indonesian language (he’d studied Spanish and Portuguese at CMC) by way of a computer program. “I’ve always believed that if you know the native language where you are staying,” he says, “it’s a good way to earn respect, and make friends by default.”

He’s also just earned his scuba diving certification something that will allow him to take advantage of the waters outside his temporal home in an old Dutch trading-post town on the island of Sulawesi. (“I’ve heard it’s the best place, ever, to scuba dive. So I had to get certified.”) And when his visiting parents fly out for a stay, he can fix them dinner because, as he says, “I’ve recently started spear-fishing.”

Strahl reports July 29 for his Fulbright year, and has completed five of eight vaccinations required for the journey. “My mom is nervous,” he admits. “When they found out I was applying for the Fulbright, I think my parents were crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t get it. But they’ve since come to embrace it,” he says. “They’ve been reading books on Indonesia.”

Not surprisingly, Strahl will reunite with classmates before he leaves, on a river kayaking trip in his hometown.

“All of my best friends,” he says, “I met in college. It was great to go to a place where people lived on campus for four years. I think it was a better residential experience than what I would have had at any of the other colleges I had visited before choosing CMC.

“The academics were great,” he pauses, “but the most meaningful part of my education was meeting my friends.”