1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Alumni Feature

Esther Lim

"What they needed was someone who could read and write well, whose forte was effective communication geared toward coordinating efforts between various combinations of people relevant to each project."

I am a grant coordinator for an international ophthalmology NGO based in South Africa. We have multiple ongoing projects in ten different African countries, funded through high-profile organizations like USAID, WHO, and private foundations. We work closely with the ministries of health in each country to formulate targeted eye care plans for rural populations, providing screening and treatment for patients as well as training for local medical staff. My job involves drafting and editing proposals for funding, managing the implementation of ongoing programs, and helping disseminate research through reports and manuscripts.

Back when I first applied for this job I didn't know a thing about ophthalmology. In fact, I can hardly stand the idea of surgery, let alone eye surgery. But they already had the experts in place: the doctors, the researchers, the government officials. What they needed was someone who could read and write well, whose forte was effective communication geared toward coordinating efforts between various combinations of people relevant to each project. My studies in the UVA English department gave me this edge and enabled me to pursue a job I otherwise would have thought beyond my scope.

I also do some food reviewing as a freelancer, since Cape Town is a booming tourist destination. I get to eat a lot—from full-course meals at acclaimed winery restaurants to small bites at the trendy bars downtown—then write about the experience. It's definitely not for the faint of heart (literally speaking, nor for anyone with high cholesterol), but I absolutely love it.

One of the long-standing memories I have of my time at UVA was my very first class with Professor Caroline Rody. For 20th Century Women's Literature, she began the semester by reading Grace Paley's “The Loudest Voice” out loud in the classroom. I still remember the resonating warmth of her voice, calm and tender and powerful. Her reading, and the story, changed the face of modern fiction as I know it. I went on to get an MFA in creative writing and hope to teach that very same class someday when I return to the U.S.

Also, did I mention how many times during Professor Clare Kinney's classes I had to fight the urge to give a standing ovation at the end of her lecture? She always does finish with a brilliant flourish, don't you think?