UI student awarded Fulbright to teach English in Jordan

Addie Leak
Addie Leak, a UI graduate with an M.F.A in literary translation, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant to Jordan for 2016-17. 

Addie Leak, a UI graduate with an M.F.A in literary translation, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant to Jordan for 2016-17. Addie is  an experienced teacher with extensive overseas experience in France, and a literary translator. In addition to working with local writers on translating their works, the Woodville, MS native hopes to organize a women’s writing group while in Jordan, as well as engage with her community by volunteering within the refugee community through a community organization such as the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development.

Hometown: Woodville, MS

Degree and field of study: B.F.A. in creative writing (Belhaven University), M.F.A in literary translation (University of Iowa)

What will be the focus of your teaching?

Teaching, for me, is about sharing the things I love, and I love it because, in equal measure, I'm constantly learning new things from my students. Although I'm not yet sure what level I'll be teaching in Jordan, I believe that the arts (something I love!) have an amazing power to create ties between people from different backgrounds. With this in mind, I would like to create a space for exchange in which students and I examine some combination of American and Jordanian music, film, theatre, literature, dance, and visual arts--discovering both what makes each culture unique and what unites us.

What drew you to this field of study?

On my junior year abroad in Nantes, France, I took a political science course on the Near East and spent the semester in awe of my professor, who leapt around the classroom recounting recent history in present tense. I was studying creative writing at the time, and I remember being more fascinated by the story she was telling us than by some of the novels I was reading for my lit course. That was the semester I realized, first, that I wanted to study Arabic--to become a tiny part of the story--and, secondly, that I wanted to teach. It's a powerful thing; the course of my future totally shifted because of this professor.

How do you see this Fulbright grant advancing your work?

As a teacher, I will continue to learn both from my students, and from my colleagues' experience teaching English in Jordanian schools. I also look forward to being completely immersed in life in Jordan: taking debke (dance) classes and hiking and eating large quantities of falafel. I'm a translator in addition to being a teacher, and this immersion will do wonders both for my Arabic and for my skills as a translator: the better I know Jordan, the better able I will be to translate Near Eastern literature. I also hope, during my time there, to meet and work directly with Jordanian authors; being on the ground in Jordan will make that process much simpler.

How do you envision this will change your life?

I think that living abroad makes it much harder for us to paint issues in black and white; when we start to experience firsthand the nuances of the way other people live, we become more compassionate human beings. During my time in Jordan, I expect to grow as a person, a teacher, and an artist, and I know I will create ties with students and writers that will continue to shape my evolution in these respects for years to come. I'll also (inshallah!) come back to the US speaking flawless Jordanian Arabic. Fingers crossed.

Would you have any advice for future students interested in pursuing a Fulbright?

I decided to apply pretty late in the game, so not only did I spring this on my (saintly!) recommenders, but the collapsed time frame was pretty taxing on me, as well. So my advice would be: get a head start! University deadlines may seem early, but they're built to give you ample time to polish your application. Take advantage of that. Also, Karen and the rest of the UI Fulbright team are rock stars; they know what it takes to succeed, and they're there to help you figure out how to do just that. I wouldn't have pulled this off without their help. The more often your essays get ripped to shreds, the stronger they'll be in the end, so welcome criticism!

The highly competitive Fulbright Program, created by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1946 and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, provides grants annually for international research and teaching in an effort to foster global partnership and cultural exchange. For more information on applying for a Fulbright through the University of Iowa, visit our Fulbright page.

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