April 15, 2014

Student Profile: Eve Ben Ezra ’14

Get to know Eve Ben Ezra ’14, a major in mathematics and recipient of a Fulbright award.
Eve Ben Ezra ’14

Major: Mathematics
Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Can you describe your Fulbright award, where you will be traveling, and what you’ll be doing while you’re there?

I’m not sure where I’ll be traveling yet, aside from knowing that I’ll be going to Thailand. While I’m there, I’ll be working as an English teaching assistant and am also hoping to be able to volunteer in a health clinic as a translator. I also hope to be able to conduct research into the cultural and religious history of Thailand and its people.

What drew you to studying a foreign language? What excites you about the idea of teaching English in the country you have been placed?

I’ve always loved foreign languages. For a long time, one of my life goals has been to learn the six official languages of the United Nations (English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, Arabic). I’m proficient in French and can get by in Russian and Mandarin. At Lewis & Clark, I started my freshman year in French 101, where I loved the enthusiasm of the professor enough to meet my language requirement and apply for a major in French. Although that didn’t work out, I did get to travel to Strasbourg on a Lewis & Clark overseas program and take a French literature class, which was amazing in and of itself. 

I think it’s very important to learn or at least have a basic knowledge of English as it opens the doors to myriad places and successes. From my experience while traveling, everyone knows at least one or two words of English, which can make crossing the language barrier less stressful. English is not a universal language, for which I’m glad, because foreign languages are important and beautiful things, but English does make it easier to travel, get around, move, or be understood when people don’t speak your maternal language. Even when I visited rural China, the farmers spoke enough English to help me get by and say hello.

Have you participated in any study abroad trips during your time at Lewis & Clark? If so, what was that experience like?

I participated in the France fall 2012 trip to Strasbourg, which was life changing. It was a big culture shock in its own way. I had previously been to Africa, which was difficult to adjust to because of all of the differences in practice and ways of living. France was frustratingly different in the way of little, small things that it took a long time to get used to, like the fact that their paper was an inch longer or that it was considered strange to smile at someone on the street.

How do you think your Lewis & Clark education has contributed to you seeing yourself as a citizen in a global community?

My Lewis & Clark education has completely contributed to who I am today, what my successes are, and who I’ll probably be in the future. My entire time here, my personal views have been shaped and changed. My department, especially my advisor Assistant Professor of Mathematics Paul Allen, has been nothing but supportive since my first year. I think that the department was more like a family. Professors keep their doors open; they have birthday parties; and everyone is so happy about everyone else’s successes. I also took classes in other departments. Of course I took Exploration and Discovery, which first semester was fascinating but second semester was life changing and brought back my curiosity of religion and culture. I took classes in foreign language departments, in chemistry and biology, in English. Without the support of my professors and peers, I never would have had the bravery to apply for a Fulbright, or apply to the internship last year that took me to Beijing, or apply to volunteer with local NGOs.

Lewis & Clark is also where I met people on the most diverse scale. My best friend is a Third Culture Kid who lived in India and Singapore. One of my roommates has three citizenships. It helps to have these international looks at everything, especially when I am worried about my own morals or thoughts. Having all of these different international influences—and national influences as well, since everyone grows up differently—has really helped me shape the way I think, and given me the ability to look at things more objectively and rationally than I could before coming to college. Lewis & Clark has also given me the ability to think critically in a way I never have been able to do before. 

What are your plans for the future, and how do you think your Fulbright experience will figure in those plans?

In the future I would love to get a master’s in education and teach at the primary level (hopefully K-3) so that I can help children in their first years of formal education learn to love learning. I’m also very hopeful that I can help them realize math isn’t as scary as some people think. I know that math can be daunting and hard, especially if one has trouble reading at a young age, since so many math problems in elementary school are in the form of word problems. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to inspire my students to keep going with their education and view it as a tool and not a burden. I’d also love to teach in a bilingual setting. I hope to stay in Portland, but also I would love to live internationally (probably in China) and teach there as well. I think teachers learn just as much from students as we learn from them, and I very much want to see what it’s like on the other side.

Any advice to share with other Lewis & Clark students applying for similar awards in the future?

Think long and hard about where you want to go and why you want to go there. Think about why you want to have an English teaching assistantship, because the answer “because I want a Fulbright” probably isn’t what you want to put on an application. Think about whether or not you’re really passionate about things like language, teaching, learning, or helping others. Choose a country that you have personal connections with. And just go for it. If you aren’t so keen on teaching, consider taking a few years and then apply for a research grant. Hope for the best and remember that Fulbright program coordinator and Associate Professor of Anthropology Deborah Heath is amazing and will help you if you ask her.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to future Lewis & Clark students?

I am so happy that I went to Lewis & Clark. Every department I’ve spent time in has been welcoming and inclusive. I know the math department best, and so I can honestly say that I think they have made me a better person. I have never met a department full of professors who are so proud and enthusiastic about what they do. I have never met more people who believed in me from the start, though I had given them little to believe in.

I’m glad that I went to Lewis & Clark and not a large state school because of the relationship I can form with professors. They all know my name. I sit and talk with them about anything and everything. I’ve had classes invited to a professor’s house at the end of the semester where they give me cheesecake and I get to meet their pets. The professors are the most patient people I’ve ever met. And I’ve made lifelong friendships here as well.

If I could go back in time, I’d still choose Lewis & Clark. I think anyone who’s had the opportunity to go here, who fits well with the college, should. It’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t trade for anything…except maybe my Fulbright.

Mathematics Department