“At times the experience has been challenging and at other times it is rewarding or exciting,” says Megan Madison, speaking about her year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Amman, Jordan. When Jordan joined the Fulbright program for the first time last year, Megan was one of only two students nationwide selected for the country’s program. She is assigned as the primary teacher for communication skills and leadership courses at The Jubilee School, a private school for gifted, underprivileged students. She developed the curriculum for both programs and teaches them at the 9th, 10th and 11th grade levels. She also mentors students who need academic assistance in other areas.
Beyond her daily job, Megan studies Arabic in Amman and volunteers for activities such as serving as a judge for a forensics competition at the American School of Amman. She also continues her music studies with the director of the Amman Symphony Orchestra at the National Music Conservatory of Jordan.
Megan’s preparation for this opportunity began before she entered Converse. Although she planned to major in music performance, she sought a school where she could study Arabic as well. Converse did not offer the language at the time, but Megan learned from Dr. Joe Dunn, chair of the history and politics department, that some Converse students were pursuing Arabic during summer study in the Middle East. Megan entered Converse as a double performance major in flute and piano and later added a major in politics.
Her freshman year was traumatic as both her father and her older sister died from cancer during the year. The experience had academic consequences. But Megan devoted herself to cancer awareness during her undergraduate years and became a leader in fundraising efforts with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She also became an active student leader with many interests and activities at Converse, culminating in her election as student body president her senior year.
Megan also threw herself into the Model Arab League, Model UN and Model NATO programs. Of Model Arab League delegation auditions during her freshman year, Megan remembers, “I have never worked more intensely or with more focus than that week of preparation. They wanted us to tackle issues involving Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds…people that I knew nothing about, but I committed myself to learning everything that I could.” Her efforts were successful as she made the delegation and began a four-year career that included numerous debate and best chair awards and culminated with her role as co-head delegate in her senior year.
Megan followed her plan to study Arabic during summers. After her sophomore year, she studied in Morocco; and after her junior year she participated in an Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation program in Galilee. She kept her Arabic skills alive at Converse through an independent study and private lessons.
The Fulbright year in Jordan is a step in Megan’s plan to attend graduate school in conflict resolution and to work in the field in the Middle East. She explains that the experience of living in the society and integrating into the Jordanian teaching environment allows for a level of understanding well beyond that possible from lectures and reading. “I not only understand certain cultural mindsets, but I know how to work within them as well. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that both my undergraduate education and the Fulbright program have afforded me.”