Annie Wendel of Ridgefield, a member of the Class of 2013 at Providence College, has received a grant from the Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program of the U.S. government, to Nepal.
She will spend a year teaching English and learning the Nepalese language while also developing a community service project.
Ms. Wendel spent eight weeks during the summer of 2011 working in social justice ministries in Australia and teaching at a boarding school in the Solomon Islands. During the spring semester in 2012, she studied in South Africa while teaching seventh graders and visiting Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Ms. Wendel, who just graduated summa cum laude with a degree in public and community service studies, selected Nepal as her destination because of her fascination with other cultures.
“I’ve had family friends tell me about their personal experiences traveling there, stories about the beauty of the landscape and people,” Ms. Wendel told a local newspaper. “I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the culture and learning another language, and to my home stay with a family.”
She is one of about 1,700 U.S. students selected to receive a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant. She will be one of six students teaching in Nepal, chosen from among 56 applicants.
Dr. John B. Margenot III, professor of Spanish and Providence College’s Fulbright Program adviser, said, “Annie is a highly empathetic candidate with a very positive attitude who is wise beyond her years. She thinks pragmatically, is inquisitive and keenly interested in cross-cultural dialogue. She is an articulate and thoughtful speaker, and is intensely interested in her major as well as her professional goals.”
Ms. Wendel arrived at Providence College with plans to study English. But during her freshman year she discovered public and community service studies, a program that requires students to participate in service projects outside the classroom. It attracts “a really great group of students who are passionate and inspired and want to make a change,” Ms. Wendel said.
As a freshman, she began volunteering at YouthRAP, a program offered by the Smith Hill Community Development Corp. that provides homework help, field trips, and after-school and weekend activities for neighborhood youth. She tutored students in science and healthy eating and served as the Providence College liaison during her sophomore and junior years.
In Sydney, Australia, she worked in social justice ministries with the Las Casas Centre for Justice, Peace, and Care of Creation at Santa Sabina College. In the Solomon Islands, she taught at a Christian boarding school.
This past March, Ms. Wendel participated in an alternative spring break trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Working with Esperanza International, she joined other students in building a house for a needy family, from the foundation to the concrete cinder block walls.
Her experiences convinced her that she would like to work in international education, focusing on global youth development and literacy.
Ms. Wendel was introduced to international travel by her family. She remembers that during a trip to Italy, Greece and Turkey, she was most intrigued by Turkey — probably because it was so different from the other countries.
Her eight-month stay in Nepal will begin in July. She will teach English to students in a government school and develop a project that introduces them to community service, leadership and civic engagement — she just isn’t sure exactly where.
“You have to be very flexible,” she said. “It could be rural, it could be urban. I’m excited for both.”
(The Ridgefield Press)
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