Alumni Spotlight: Jessica Miller

Studying Arabic has opened many doors to worldwide opportunities for UW-Madison alumna Jessica Miller.

Jessica Miller studied Biology, African Literature and Languages, and African Studies before graduating in 2018 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dream is to work as a physician with Arabic-speaking refugees, uniting her two main interests; geopolitical conflict and global health.

After graduation, Miller received a fellowship to work with a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Collateral Repair Project (CRP) in Amman, Jordan.

“CRP is a local NGO which serves the need of urban refugees, and I am working as the Community Center Programs Manager,” Miller told us.

Upon return to the United States in 2019, Miller plans to apply to medical schools and begin her instruction to be a physician in 2020.

When Miller first came to Madison she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but she knew she was interested in health and conflict globally. She decided to study Arabic in order to work with the Arabic-speaking population of refugees, one of the largest in the world. Miller says she is fascinated by the current refugee crisis and how it can be aided by sustainable global health initiatives.

“I wanted to learn Arabic in order to increase my competency in working with these populations and communicating with my future patients. I am thoroughly interested in how the current refugee crisis could be aided by sustainable global health initiatives,” said Miller.

When asked how studying language at Madison enriched her life, Miller had a lot to say. She spoke of the opportunities she found, the friends and faculty she met, and the transformation language study has had on her life.

“My life has been hugely transformed by my passion for Arabic. I could have never imagined the richness that studying a language and region would add to my biology curriculum and STEM background. I encountered so many incredible students, professors, and leaders within the African Cultural Studies department, and I have been introduced to so many opportunities because of my unique language background. I funded my sophomore year of study at UW Madison with the U.S. Department of Education’s Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) undergraduate fellowship, and I had the opportunity to travel to Amman in 2017 with the U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship (CLS). Both of these incredible opportunities not only made my undergraduate years and interests financially possible but granted me with invaluable language experience and professional connections,” Miller described.

Miller says the best part of language classes is the prioritization of communication and community the small class size offers and promotes in each language class. This close-knit community, she notes, simply was not able to be replicated in her larger STEM lectures. She cites Arabic as being a valuable break during her week to dive into a different kind of rigor and education.

When asked what advice she had for undergraduate students, Miller urged that students always push themselves and avoid holding themselves back. Language study is hard and takes a lot of work, in times of frustration Miller stresses the importance of reminding yourself why you are learning the language and the opportunities and growth it has, and will, allow you.

“Learning a language is grueling — I’ve been studying Arabic for 4 years and still have so much to learn. It’s important to remind yourself why you’re invested in learning to communicate with a certain population of people, and that is what will continue to drive you.”

To learn more information on Miller and other alumni visit our website alumni pages or Miller’s LinkedIn.

Written By Katie Herrick, Digital and Social Media Communication Intern