MARQUETTE - Teaching English abroad isn't something that Teresa Soldner wants to do for a living but is something that she sees as an opportunity to learn a new language herself.
Teresa Soldner, 23, left Tuesday to teach English in Jordan as part of the Fullbright Program, a government funded international educational exchange program, and will be there for about 10 months. The government funds both scholars and students to go abroad to other countries and some to come here as well, aiming from cultural exchange and intellectual exchange, Soldner said.
"I applied through my school and it's an eight-month long process. Fullbright has a research program and a teaching program and I'm going to be teaching English. So you apply to one country in one of those two categories," Soldner said. "They interview you at your school and then choose from there. The government usually chooses double the number of applicants that they need for the the first cuts."
Teresa Soldner, left, teaches English to students in Ecuador. (Teresa Soldner photo)
There are 10 English teaching positions in Jordan, so they chose 20 applications and sent them to Jordan. Then the university in Jordan chooses 10 applicants of the 20 to teach English there, Soldner said.
According to Soldner, there aren't many countries to choose from for teaching but she picked Jordan for their language.
"I chose Jordan because I really like the Lebanese dialect and because their program also had Arabic lessons included in with the scholarship," Soldner said.
Soldner recently graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor's in chemistry, Middle Eastern studies and international relationships and will be attending Michigan State University's medical school next year.
"I think that it's really exciting to be going to Jordan right now because it's been in the middle of conflict," Soldner said. "I'd really like to be in refugee medicine, so Jordan gets the brunt of every refugee situation thus far."
Even though Soldner has taught English abroad before, she said she doesn't consider it her calling.
"It's a really great way to live abroad, pay the bills and have some sort of contribution that really gives you roots in a place," Soldner said. "I use teaching as a way to better learn a language while living there."
Soldner spent the last year teaching English in Ecuador and spent that time also learning Spanish on a conversational level, she said.
"It always struck me as funny that I ended up learning Arabic because (Spanish and Arabic) don't really cross in any way much in the world except for in Michigan," Soldner said. "Spanish is the second most spoken language in Michigan followed closely by Arabic.
"I was looking at the census data lately and one out of seven people in the U.S. that speaks Arabic and don't speak English very well lives in Michigan. So (Jordan) is a very good place to go abroad and come back and do medicine if I want to reach a less accessible population."
Soldner has many goals of what she wants to get out of her abroad trip to Jordan but she said her number one goal is to be able to speak Arabic fluently.
"It's just nearly impossible to do in the states because you need that emergen, you need the everyday thing. With English and Spanish you get a lot of the same cognitives, you can understand things you didn't necessarily know, but with Arabic it's just every vocab word is a step, a fight," Soldner said. "So I definitely want to be able to communicate in Arabic with future patients, to make friends and to learn what it's like to live there, especially these days."
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.