Photo courtesy of: The Office of Nationally Competitive Awards
Jun 6, 2012
The daughter of Lebanese immigrants, Nadine Ajaka, a senior broadcast journalism and global studies double major, will spend the next year teaching English in Jordan with her most recent accolade: a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Teaching Assistantship.
She is the first Ohio University student to win the Fulbright in the country of Jordan.
“I hope to emerge from it even closer to my culture than I am … and to gain a greater understanding of what life is like in the Middle East now. I get a version from my parents from the 1970s,” she said with a laugh. “The world is changing.”
The Fulbright will enable her to live in Jordan for a year and will give her a teaching placement at an elementary, middle or high school in the country. Though Ajaka is not an education or language major, she considers teaching to be a similar to her chosen profession: journalism.
“It’s all taking information that might be a little too complicated for people and putting it out in a way that is understandable for people,” she said. “I think English is such a tool.”
As a teaching assistant, she hopes to give this tool to her students, build their skills during her time in Jordan. She also hopes, as an American-born Arab woman, to dispel myths about American life and to serve as a bridge between the U.S. and Jordan.
Beyond what she gives her students, she hopes the year abroad will be a time of personal growth.
“I’m excited for just the personal change that comes from living in another country … how your world view changes … and what that will mean for my future and how I approach the rest of my life,” she said.
Ajaka has spent much of her life traveling either with her family or through Ohio University. As a global studies major specializing in Africa, she recently completed an internship in Kenya at a foundation for sustainable development. She taught English at a primary school and put together an 11-minute documentary on the organization she worked for, which it can present to potential donors. From these many abroad excursions, she urges all students to travel abroad in unconventional ways.
“When it’s not structured and you’re not always chaperoned, that’s when you really get to learn and learn who you are in a new environment surrounded by the unfamiliar. When you are stripped of all that is familiar, you find things about yourself that you wouldn’t have known before,” she said.
The Fulbright is Ajaka’s next step to learning more about herself and the world at large. She still recalls the moment she found out she had won the award. She had just stepped off the treadmill at the gym, adrenaline pumping, when she saw the email on her phone. All she saw was the word “congratulations.”
“I was by a bench. I fell on the bench and started crying. People must have been so alarmed,” Ajaka said.
Her advice to future applicants is to start early, know where you want to go and be passionate.
“There are so many lackluster people in this world. Even if you might not have the typical qualifications … don’t let that deter you from applying, she said. “Because passion can go a long way.”
In fact, for Ajaka, it can take you all the way to Jordan.