Nabila Rahman, ’12, has a history of being internationally curious.

She was born in Bangladesh and raised in the United States. She studied philosophy, politics, economics, and law at Richmond and possesses critical international experiences and skills. She is fluent in English and Bengali, had an internship in Bangladesh, and studied abroad for two semesters with UR partner programs — one at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and one in Nepal through the SIT Nepal: Development and Social Change program.

When she entered the Office of International Education for Fulbright advising as a rising senior, it seemed the next natural step in preparing for a global career.

Rahman mastered what she calls a "lengthy and challenging application process" and won a Fulbright grant to work as an English teaching assistant in Malaysia for a year after graduation. She hoped to apply lessons from Malaysia to future work in lower-income countries.

Besides battling the thick heat, she says daily life in the middle-class Malaysian suburb where she lived included all the conveniences she could want. The challenges of this Southeast Asian country awaited her in the classroom.

Robed in a typical baju kurung, she faced an average of 35 students in each class. "Students opened up to me because I was the crazy American teacher who would make them do public speaking," Rahman said with a laugh.

As a secondary level math tutor, she dealt with significant language barriers and difficulty with competency. Some students struggled with basic addition at the age of 13. With diverse student populations including Malaysians, Chinese Malaysians, and Indian Malaysians, ethnic and religious differences among students prevented learning at times, despite the instructors' best efforts to promote cooperation.

"There were some very frustrating moments,” Rahman said. “But it was one of the most rewarding and wonderful things in the world. I realized that I absolutely love teaching."

After completing her Fulbright in November 2013, Rahman researched opportunities to work in education and discovered Teach For Bangladesh, which is modeled similarly to Teach For America. The organization places future leaders in two-year fellowships in struggling Bangladeshi schools. Rahman entered the Associate Development Program and worked on fundraising; recruitment, selection, and matriculation; and leadership development.

"My Fulbright definitely influenced my decision to work with Teach For Bangladesh,” she said. “It was only by being a Fulbright English teaching assistant that I realized truly how vital education is for anything else, whether you're talking about a country's economic growth, political system, or even their healthcare challenges."

Photo: Nabila Rahman coaches ninth grade students through a skit in her Malaysian classroom.