In a little more than a week, Castleton State College senior Spanish major Brian Garvey will graduate.
Two months after that and thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship, the Burlington native will travel to Medellin, Columbia – known across the globe for cocaine production and ruthless cartels – to teach English at the University of San Beunaventura .
So why Medellin when he could have applied to teach English at one of 160 worldwide locations?
"Because I want to teach people that it’s not all like the movies and TV make it sound like," he said. "I want to come back and tell people it’s a cool place."
When he tells people he’s going to Medellin, though, he said the reaction is consistent and involved jaws dropping and blank stares. He said even the father of his girlfriend is sending him travel warnings for that area, seemingly questioning his decision to go.
"I just laugh. I see it as a reason TO go," he said, adding that he has traveled abroad before including trips to Spain and Buenos Aries and feels equipped to handle Columbia.
Garvey is the first Castleton student to ever be awarded the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant, which pays for all of his travel expenses, pays him to teach and pays for him to earn his master’s degree in the year he’s there.
The 21-year-old Garvey said he feels "humbled completely" at being the first CSC student to get this opportunity.
"But it really makes me want to encourage other students to apply and make people learn they can do it too," he said.
Spanish professor Ana Alfaro-Alexander excitedly spoke about Garvey and his work at Castleton. He sponged up everything they threw at him including opportunities to travel to Spain and Argentina. The trip to Buenos Aires came about after he told her of his summer plans after junior year to work at Price Chopper.
"I said over my dead body," she said, recalling the conversation in which she told him he needed to do something far more interesting.
He found a program called Cultural Embrace, and he ended up working with orphans in Buenos Aires.
"He came back and said, wow, that was a lot better than Price Chopper," she said with a laugh.
Alfaro-Alexander and CSC Librarian Sandy Duling, also a Fulbright scholar, said Garvey landing this opportunity is also great for the school.
"It’s a big deal for Brian, and for Castleton too," Duling said.
Duling said the application for the grant alone is a hurdle with strict essay requirements. In addition, he was competing with students from lofty schools including Harvard, Cornell and Middlebury, she said.
Duling said a Castleton graduate, Ashley Acuna, is waiting to hear whether she will be awarded a similar grant to teach in Malaysia.
"I hope that Brian’s success will inspire other Castleton students to apply for Fulbright opportunities," she said.
And that was the message Garvey wanted to drive home too, that students need to get out and see the world and take advantage of opportunities the school offers.
"The one thing I want to say is go abroad. That’s it, do it," he said. "Even if you don’t think you have money to do it, there are ways."