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The College of Arts Sciences

Near Eastern Studies major awarded Fulbright Grant

April 18, 2016

By: Ayla Cline, Department of Near Eastern Studies

April 18, 2016

Near Eastern Studies (NES) major, Savannah Dowling ’16 recently received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award to work in Jordan. Teaching assistants are placed overseas in schools to supplement local English language instruction and provide a native speaker in the classrooms. Dowling, a double major in Near Eastern Studies and China and Asia-Pacific Studies, has a passion for Arabic and human rights. Arabic, she says, has always come easy for her.  Even in her other classes she was always finding a way to incorporate her love of Near Eastern Studies. “Advanced Arabic was the best part of my day,” she says. Learning the language allowed her a better understanding and fuller appreciation of the culture and the people. “Language breaks down cultural barriers,” says Dowling, who views language as less of a utility, and more as a valuable link between people. 

During her work at the Casa Cornelia Law Center during the summer of 2015 she realized that she wanted to focus her work on refugees and asylum law.  She applied for her Fulbright Grant because of a need to “understand and contextualize what [she] had learned” in her classes at Cornell. She found that she derived a lot of joy while tutoring students here in English. She is currently helping international students at Cornell who wish to be TA’s to pass their ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview, a live, 20-30 minute telephone conversation between a certified ACTFL tester and the candidate. As president of the Language Pairing Program in spring 2014 semester and the 2014-2015 academic year, Dowling was able to explore her passion for helping non-native speakers of English gain confidence and combat the isolation that language barriers can sometimes create.  

Dowling thanks two NES alumni, Jennifer Ross ’13 and Nate Floro ’15, also Fulbright grant recipients, for their help and wisdom with the application process. She attributes the support of Professor Andrew Mertha, Director of the China and Asia Pacific Studies Program, NES Professor Ross Brann, Milton R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, and Munther Younes, NES Senior Lecturer in Arabic, as the reason that she even applied. “I would not have applied without their encouragement. They taught me not to doubt myself.” While the details of her placement are in development, Dowling does know that she will be in Jordan.