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Journalism's Nadine Ajaka earns Fulbright to Jordan

Alex Koumas | May 17, 2012

Journalism's Nadine Ajaka earns Fulbright to Jordan

By Alex Koumas, ak289507@ohio.edu

ATHENS, Ohio (May 17, 2012) – Senior Nadine Ajaka, double majoring in journalism and global studies with a focus on Africa, recently became the first ever Ohio University student to receive a Fulbright Scholarship to study and teach English in Jordan for ten months.

This particular award is an English Teaching Assistantship that will last from September to June. Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) are required to put in up to 20 hours per week of part-time English teaching assistance to permanent teaching staff. At the same time, ETAs gain from intensive cross-cultural interaction and international education and/or research opportunities at pre-selected Jordanian institutions.

This scholarship will also fund round-trip transportation to and from Jordan, pre-departure and in-country orientation, study in colloquial Arabic, room and board and incidental costs. Accident and health insurance are also provided.

Aside from the opportunity to live and teach in the Middle East, Ajaka is eager to involve herself into the culture by interacting with the people in the community.

“I am just so exited to go abroad and to live in Jordan,” Ajaka explains. “I really want to learn about the people there and make a home for myself.”

Ajaka began thinking of applying to the Fulbright program her sophomore year after her academic adviser, Laura Schaeffer, sent her to the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards to meet with their director, Beth Clodfelter. After meeting with Clodfelter, Ajaka knew that this was something she was extremely interested in applying for after graduation. Since she is Arab, Ajaka hopes to connect with and learn more about her culture through this program.

“My family is Arab, and I wanted to have an experience that would bring me closer to my culture, to use my language and to grow in that part of myself,” Ajaka states. “Also, the Middle East is such a hotspot for journalism. There are so many tumultuous events that occur over there. I have a genuine interest in international affairs, so that is what really got me interested.”

International studies have always interested Ajaka. She spent nine weeks last year interning in Kenya with the Foundation for Sustainable Development and was placed with a nonprofit organization, RUSH. This was ultimately apart of her requirement for her global studies major.

Ajaka lived with a native Kenyan family in Kakamega and worked at a school to help young Kenyan girls. Ajaka said the experience helped her to learn about herself and how to assimilate with a new culture She said she will apply what she learned in Kenya in Jordan to really get a valuable and fulfilling experience.

“(Living in Kenya) really showed me how difficult it can be to assimilate to another culture, but it also shows rewarding those efforts are once you take that jump,” Ajaka explains. “Culture shock is nothing that you can be prepared for, it honestly hits you like a bus. That experience in Kenya showed me the value of opening up to people and abandoning my comfort and to really here and be present all the time and to constantly think about my life back home.”

Most of all, Ajaka is eager to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of life in Middle East. With this, she hopes to bring back the stories of people in the Middle East and share them others to make a difference on their outlook on this part of the world.

“Having immigrant parents and having traveled over there before, I have a sense of it, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near what I will have after living and working there, “ Ajaka states. “I hope to really be equipped with stories that I can bring back to the United States and tell people about Jordan and the region. There is just so much negative stigma associated with the Middle East, and there is a lack of understanding from the media or government. Americans are such inward-thinking people, when in reality stories that people tell over there is what’s happening to people over here. I just hope to change a few people’s minds.”

As she prepares for the experience, Ajaka savors the feeling of reaching a dream she’s had for several years.

“I feel like this scholarship means the world to me and I have wanted this my entire college career,” she said. “It just means an opportunity to grow as a person and to give back wherever I am placed. I am just excited to become apart of the community there.”

Ajaka is a four-year member of Ohio University’s Speech and Debate Team and has also interned at the TODAY Show in New York City.