Jessica M.

"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."

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Major(s) and Certificate(s): Biology and African Literature and Languages majors,  African Studies certificate

Language(s): Arabic

Graduation Year: 2018

Current Location: Amman, Jordan

What have you done since graduating from UW-Madison?

In April of 2018, I received a MENAR fellowship to work at an NGO named 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. I plan to apply to medical schools upon my return in 2019 and I will enter medical school in 2020.

What motivated you to study this/these languages?

I was motivated to study this language because of an interest in the intersection between geopolitical conflict and global health. I plan on working with Arabic-speaking refugee populations as a physician in my career, and 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.

How have these languages enriched your 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.

What do you remember about your UW language classes? How were they different from other classes you took?

I cannot speak enough to the amazing professors I had in my language courses at UW Madison. My Arabic courses gave me a break from my STEM coursework and biology major in the most amazing way by granting me smaller classes where we focused on discussion and discourse. I cannot discount that I also gained invaluable skills from my biology courses; however, my Arabic courses made each day brighter because they prioritized communication and community in a way that my large lectures on STEM subjects could not.

How have you maintained or improved your language(s) since graduation?  

I am currently living in Amman, Jordan, where I speak Arabic on a daily basis for my job.

What advice do you have for current language students?

Never stop pushing yourself and never hold yourself back. 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. Additionally, if you find an opportunity you’re interested in regarding your language, just apply for it. If you don’t receive the scholarship or internship or funding, that’s okay, but always apply so that you don’t regret not trying later.

What is your favorite word or phrase in a language you know?

يعطيك العافية (batik el afyeh) means “may he (God) grant you health” – this is a beautiful and colloquially used way of thanking someone for their services or help