Hello fellow travellers!
My name is Olivia Werby, and I will be one of your course instructors this fall in Indonesia. I’m so excited to meet you all and together explore a country that is close to my heart! I’m going to kick off introductions, and I would love for you all to post as well so we can all begin to learn about each other and get used to using the Yak Board.
I’m writing this from my family’s home in Berkeley, California, my hometown. Growing up in Berkeley, surrounded by an international and diverse group of people, stoked curiosity in me early. My parents are artists, and my mom, in particular, was very inspired by the music, dance, and art of Indonesia. She took me to gamelan concerts at UC Berkeley before I could even walk, and as a child I was her assistant teaching workshops to kids on how to make wayang kulit inspired shadow puppets out of recycled materials, planting seeds that I would eventually cultivate and sprout.
By the time I got to college (Pitzer College, one of the Claremont colleges in Southern California), I was set on figuring out how to spend as much time abroad as possible. I spent 2 summers abroad in Botswana, living in homestays, taking language classes, and working with my professor (a child psychologist) to develop an art therapy curriculum for a local orphanage/preschool where I was interning. I spent a third summer in Uganda and Rwanda, on a peace and conflict studies course, again in homestays and learning from locals and NGOs about the history and lingering impact of conflict and genocide in those countries, and about efforts to heal and rebuild. I also spent a semester in Ecuador, studying Kichwa and Andean studies, living in a variety of homestays, engaging with indigenous communities, interning at a vocational school for indigenous girls, and conducting research on responses to domestic violence in different communities across the country.
After college I moved to Malaysia, to teach English in a rural Islamic boarding school on a Fulbright grant. I only meant to stay one year, but I fell in love with the region and ended up staying for 3 (my two additional years were spent managing the Fulbright ETA program from the capital city, Kuala Lumpur). During that time I traveled throughout Southeast Asia, sometimes on my own and sometimes with friends, and was able to begin exploring the massive archipelago of Indonesia.
After Malaysia I returned to the U.S. to get a master’s degree in International Education Policy from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. While there I consulted on projects from Singapore to Venezuela, and helped create the foundations of the non-profit Teach for El Salvador. However, I new I wasn’t done yet with Southeast Asia, and upon graduation, I moved to Surakarta, Indonesia. There, I worked with a local non-profit developing a program to train youth leaders to identify and solve small-scale urban problems facing their communities.
I’ve also worked with the Mosaic Project in Northern California, an experiential education program for 4th and 5th graders focused on diversity, empathy, and conflict resolution.
I absolutely loved my first Dragons course in Thailand this summer, and I’m super thrilled to be returning to Indonesia this fall with all of you! Please post any questions you have to the Yak Board and one of the other instructors or I will get back to you as soon as we can!