June 1, 2010

Student Spotlight: Briana Jordan

Briana Jordan of UNC Charlotte has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program scholarship to Turkey on an English Teaching Assistantship. Jordan is one of over 1,500 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2010-2011 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. She is a graduate student in UNC Charlotte's TESL program with a wide range of experiences. According to Brad Sekulich, Director of the Office of Education Abroad, "Briana is an excellent candidate and well-deserving of this award. She will represent global UNC Charlotte well."

In her own words, here is Briana's perspective on the opportunity.

"My love of learning and desire to explore the world comes from my family background. My mother, a 30-year teacher, taught me the love of learning. My father, an Army medic, taught me the joy of exploring. Because my father was in the Army for 22 years, my childhood was spent in such diverse places as Colorado, Germany, Alabama and Texas. I feel blessed to have been exposed to so many different regions and people as a child. Being open to new people and cultures was a prerequisite for being an army brat. My parents were the primary influences on my intellectual development because they wer both very adamant about learning and education. Although not wealthy, my parents never let me go without any book, microscope, chemistry set or computer that I might have wanted. Even though neither of my parents received a university degree, they instilled in my siblings and me the importance of education.

My educational background is quite varied for someone who is now looking to be a teacher. After falling for fashion in high school, I went to college to study apparel and textile merchandising. Upon completing a BS in that field, I wanted to gain more business knowledge and took advantage of an accelerated MBA program East Carolina offers. I completed my MBA in 2004 and started as an executive trainee for a major department store. While, I have been working in fashion retail for the past 10 years, I have realized that my thoughts always return to my original love of cultures, specifically art and religions, history and education. A year ago I decided to leave the sometimes shallow world of fashion and start down a career path that will be more rewarding and meaningful to me.

As an adult, I have traveled to quite a few interesting places including Hong Kong, Italy, Costa Rica and Turkey. Through these experiences, I have gained a wider perspective of the world that we live in and the great diversity of the people who inhabit it. A particular experience that I had in Turkey that I found to be compelling was the day that I was touring the famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. While staring at the ceiling, I did not notice the group of children gathering around me. I looked down and all of a sudden there was a group of about 30 kids staring up at me and pointing. They tried to say hello to me and take my picture. It was not until this happened coupled with the fact that they were more surprised to see me and not my very blonde friend that I realized that I did not see anyone else in that large city of African descent or with dark skin. At that moment, I realized they were just as intrigued by me and my culture as I was with theirs. I want to return to Turkey because I have never been to a place where I felt so welcomed and yet so different. I think of it as a personal challenge to have the opportunity to be the first African American that some have seen outside of television adn to be able to make the first impression of a culture that they have only watched from afar. I am the type of person who is always willing to educate others about my culture and background adn in fact encourage conversations about the differences and similarities between people. I believe that the more we know and understand about one another, the better we can work together.

In the immediate future upon finishing the program for TESL, I plan to teach ESL in primary or middle school for a few years in North Carolina. I would like to eventually earn an advanced degree in TESL and teach at the community college level. My main goal is to be a positive and motivational figure in the lives of people who are trying to better their lives through education and cultural understanding."

For further information about the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, please visit: http://fulbright.state.gov/. For information about Student Fulbright opportunities, contact the UNC Charlotte Office of Education Abroad at 704-687-7747.

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