Arabic, International Studies at Meredith Lead to New Career Paths
By Melyssa Allen
Arabic may not be the most popular foreign language course Meredith offers, but taking it had quite an impact on Dana Turnage, '01, Lindsey Jones, '04, and Sarah Margaret Tulloss, '05.
These recent graduates are pursuing interests sparked in part by taking beginning Arabic and political science courses focusing on the Middle East while at Meredith.
Turnage now works for ARD, Inc., a Washington, D.C., international development consulting firm, helping prepare proposals to win US Agency for International Development (USAID) contracts for international development projects. Her work requires an understanding of both current events and the history of the nations involved. She has a Bachelor of Arts in history and religion and is studying international education development in graduate school part-time at George Washington University.
"My interest in the field developed only after I started the classes," Turnage said. "I was drawn to Arabic because it is so very different from English. Arabic is a poetic language with a deep history…I also found the region's culture very interesting because it was so different from the U.S."
Turnage, Jones and Tulloss are examples of "what you want to see as a teacher—students finding a topic they are passionate about," said Betty Webb, Meredith director of international studies. "Everything in their lives will be different because they took that [Arabic] class."
A Different Type of Education
Lindsey Jones's life is certainly different from the one she envisioned when she arrived at Meredith, planning to become a teacher and live in North Carolina.
Instead, Jones earned a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and is now working on a Master of Arts in Arab Studies at Georgetown University. She spent the summer of 2005 working as an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, an experience she calls an "invaluable way to learn."
A combination of factors led to her current path.
"I was interested in international studies, and participated in the Model United Nations team during my sophomore year," Jones said. "My Model UN experience was so crucial in my decision to study international issues…it really was a simulation of international conferences."
Another Meredith activity solidified her interest. "After I studied abroad in New Zealand, I realized other countries don't see the world in the same way as Americans do."
Though she may have changed her original career plan, Jones still sees herself as a teacher of sorts. "I'm challenging the stereotypes of the Middle East…it is just a different type of education," she said.
A main misconception is that all countries in the Middle East are the same.
"I'm realizing more and more…how diverse it is. In many ways, Jordan is very different from other Middle Eastern countries," Jones said. "But one thing Jordan shares with its neighbors is that the majority of the people crave democracy and peace."
An Area Not Dealt With in High School
As with Turnage and Jones, classes in Middle East politics and Arabic language courses influenced Sarah Margaret Tulloss, '05, who now attends New York University to earn a master's degree in Near Eastern Studies.
Tulloss was drawn to Arabic because the topic was "not something [that was] dealt with in high school…something new and a little more difficult to understand."
Tulloss continued studying Arabic, including completing a program in Egypt this summer. She has found the language gave an insight in the culture of the Middle East because vocabulary lessons included terms relating to freedom, religion and the Islamic calendar.
"In my second year, we learned [the sentence] ‘I have longing for my homeland,' which isn't something you would learn in Spanish or French class," Tulloss explained.
Arabic courses have a practical purpose, according to Michael Novak, head of Meredith's Department of History and Politics."Our nation will be more and more deeply affected by [Arabic speaking] countries," Novak said. "There are so few American speakers of Arabic that [knowing] the language alone is a ticket to very good employment opportunities in business, journalism and the Foreign Service."