Fulbright sends graduating senior to Thailand

Craig Geffre ’11 has been selected for a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to teach English to children in Thailand. He will also offer English lessons to Buddhist monks.His interest in Thailand grew from conversations with several Thai friends, and culminated in a trip to that country after a semester of study in Hong Kong. While there, the Linfield student met a group of Thai school children at the “Ancient City” of Muang Boran in Bangkok. Their inquisitiveness and eagerness to communicate in English led to an exchange of names and hometowns, and conversation. He was hooked.

Visits to cultural and religious sites left a lasting impression on Geffre, and he took up meditation studies with Ajarn Fa Thai, a Thai monk in Portland who worked closely with him on his senior thesis, which focused on Vipassana meditation.

“I’ve learned a lot about Buddhist cosmology and beliefs from books, but it’s only by learning directly from Ajarn Fa Thai that I have come to better understand the actual practice of Buddhism,” says the anthropology and religious studies student. Those conversations overlapped with his personal experiences, which deepened their impact.

The need for English speakers is growing throughout Thailand, in all aspects of society, he said, and religious life is no exception. Many monks feel a need to converse in English, including those who teach meditation and Buddhist values to international tourists who visit Thailand’s temples. Geffre plans to offer English lessons to monks with the goal of facilitating intercultural understanding.

Living in simple conditions and experiencing a new way of life appeals to the Fulbright scholar. “You can only really understand other societies by living within the culture and interacting with residents,” he says.

Geffre’s thesis on “Vipassana Meditation and the Body” was presented at the annual conference of the Pacific Sociological Association in Seattle, Wash. He hopes to pursue graduate studies in cultural anthropology, focusing on Southeast Asia and Theravada Buddhism.

“Craig is one of 22 Linfield College graduating seniors who have been selected for Fulbright grants since 1999,” says Deborah Olsen, competitive scholarships advisor. The school was named a top producer of Fulbright awards for bachelor’s institutions in 2006 and 2010.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.

Learn more about Fulbright grant opportunities and other nationally competitive scholarships.