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Jul 18, 2018 2018-07 Alumni Business Administration

Fulbright Grant recipient Dan Santos relishes teaching English in Malaysia

Fulbright grant recipient and Gies College of Business graduate Dan Santos ’17 ACCY & BA sees himself in the students he teaches in Malaysia. “I’ve felt a special connection to their ambition and drive to succeed in the midst of all of the challenges,” said Santos, 23, and a native of Beach Park, Illinois.Dan Santos in Malaysia Santos, a first-generation Filipino-American, earned bachelor’s degrees in accountancy and management in May 2017 as a James Scholar at Gies Business. Santos is one of 14 University of Illinois students and young alumni who were offered Fulbright grants to pursue international educational, research, and teaching experiences in 2018. Santos arrived in Miri, Malaysia, where he serves as an English teaching assistant at a local high school (grades 8-13 in Malaysia), on January 3, and his last day of teaching is October 26. The Carmel Catholic High School alumnus said the experience has been “eye opening” in a number of regards. “It’s taught me to embrace my roots in new ways and have a better understanding of my parents’ own origins and what life was like for my family years ago,” said Santos, who has numerous family members still living in the Philippines and visited them when he was a child. “And our work goes way beyond teaching. We serve as coaches, mentors, and camp counselors for students within our communities. Teacher-student dynamics are much different in Malaysia, especially for our position. Thus, we are encouraged to spend plenty of time with our students outside of the classroom. And the more time I spend with them, the more I see some of myself in a lot of these students. From my experiences mentoring and tutoring a pre-university student-musician who recently lost his father to coaching a young Pakistani girl, a daughter of immigrants, to a third-place showing in the district public speaking competition.” Santos said his time at Gies Business prepared him immensely for his work in Malaysia. While at Gies, he studied abroad in Sweden and participated in business honors class trips to Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates. He also served as a vice president of Global Business Brigades, a volunteer consulting organization that led him to Panama to teach financial literacy skills. “The Illinois experience did inspire me to pursue this opportunity,” Santos said. “It was beneficial having that travel experience and seeing the impact that providing basic knowledge like teaching financial literally to indigenous groups could have on those communities.” Santos said teaching English has been especially neat because he struggled with the language in grade school. He took several speech classes as a younger student because he was confusing and mixing English with Filipino when he spoke. “I was thankful for those speech classes, and because of them English became one of my stronger subjects,” Santos said. “I look at that now as an English teacher and how I can help these students.” Santos is the only child of Belinda, a nurse, and Danilo, who died when Santos was 19 and gave up a noteworthy career in Filipino politics to move to the United States. Santos said he’s driven to make his parents proud every day. “Their sacrifice allowed me to have a better life, and I know that for me education would be the key and I had to make something of myself,” Santos said. When Santos returns to the US, he has a job lined up as a consultant for EY in the firm’s fraud investigation and dispute services group. He stressed that taking a gap year in between graduation and starting his career was the perfect decision. “Having this experience abroad, especially with a program like Fulbright, has taught me more about myself than going right into work,” Santos said. “Having this sense of fulfillment and this type of experience has been a lot more meaningful than any of the experiences I’ve ever had in an office setting.”