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Triggered by Bulgaria trip, Devlin now working in China

Barry McNamara
01/24/2014

Growing up in the western Illinois town of New Windsor, population 720, Luke Devlin never dreamed he would be working near a city of 30 million residents, half a world away. Had it not been for a study-abroad opportunity before his senior year at Monmouth College, the 2012 graduate might have been content to stay near home, a place he said he knows “like the back of my hand.”
        
But soon after graduating, Devlin’s adventurous spirit, which had been kindled by a two-week experience at the prestigious Fulbright International Summer Institute in Bulgaria in 2012, won out. Receiving a tip from the organizer of his Bulgaria trip, MC associate dean Bren Tooley, Devlin immediately told her he was “on board” and packed his bags for Suzhou, China, where he is a college counseling intern at the Dulwich College International High School Programme, an exclusive school that caters to the upper 1 percent of Chinese society.
        
Now, Devlin makes his home just a half-hour train ride from Shanghai, the world’s fifth-largest city. He is adjusting well to the new culture, and the transition has been eased by his immediate supervisor, Travis Coverdell, a 1992 Monmouth graduate.
        
Part of Devlin’s role is to teach the high school students in China about different experiences they will encounter when they matriculate at U.S. colleges and universities.
        
“I think we’re doing some pretty good things,” he said of his England-based company, which has been working with international schools for 10 years. “There are about 320 kids in the school, and I see about 160 of them, helping prepare them for the transition to studying abroad and prepare for the application process.”
        
One thing that is not different about Devlin’s experience is that 100 percent of the instruction is in English. A contrast occurs, though, when he asks students about their aspirations. In the U.S., says Devlin, a group of freshmen students would freely volunteer their ideas and dreams for their future.
        
“But for the Chinese students, it’s like pulling teeth,” he said. “Part of what I’m doing is helping these kids develop ideas. They have their nose in the book, but they don’t develop ideas outside of that. Their system is very lecture-oriented, but I’ve found that critical thinking and problem solving are an issue.”
        
Devlin developed such skills at Monmouth while being immersed in four academic disciplines. He double majored in communication studies and public relations, while adding minors in history and business.
        
“That definitely broadened my experience, broadened my perspective,” said Devlin. “I think the biggest thing was I expanded my breadth of knowledge.”
        
His experience in Bulgaria contributed greatly to that new perspective, showing him globalization first hand.
        
“That was the first time I had ever been out of country,” he said. “You’re told about globalization in school, but it’s hard to teach. It really clicked for me when I went to Bulgaria and I was able to compare the American perspective about issues with the perspective of someone from a developing country or a Communist country. I became aware of different cultures and how they think about the world.”
        
Today, Devlin says he has friends from such countries as the Netherlands, Germany, Kenya, the UK, Spain, France and Indonesia, some of whom he met through a 40-member expatriate basketball league he helped develop.
        
Coming out of high school, Devlin recalls, “I didn’t know what the heck I wanted to do,” so helping students gain a better understanding of that has developed into a passion.
        
“The chances are pretty good I’ll stick with college counseling. I went through that really rough road of uncertainty, and I would like to help other people through that, either through counseling or, on the other end, as an admission representative at a college. Eventually, I can envision getting my master’s and my doctorate in that field.”