A Career Pathway to Obtaining a Ph.D.

By Leesa Truesdell

Dalal Boland has been studying at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida for three semesters. She is working on Curriculum and Instruction in English Education coursework and has two semesters until she begins her dissertation. Dalal enjoys her program very much. She is thriving at USF and really enjoys the sense of diversity on campus. Compared to Florida State University where she got her master’s, Dalal feels that USF has a thriving international community. “There is just the right balance for me. Cultural immersion is not as difficult at USF because I have Americans in my classes. I hang out with the decently sized Arab population after class and on weekends.”

Dalal is on a sponsored scholarship that lasts up to five years to complete her Ph.D. She plans to finish her degree in about four and a half years. She anticipates getting back to work in Kuwait after she graduates. Right now, she enjoys working at a university teaching English.

Here is what Dalal had to say about her career pathway to obtaining a Ph.D.

kuwait city study abroadWhat was it like growing up in Kuwait City, Kuwait? For example, what was the education system like? Did you go to a primary school and a secondary school?

“I did all of my schoolings in Kuwait at a public school up until I reached university, which was a private school. All public schools in Kuwait are segregated and subject areas are taught in Arabic. In high school, I focused on science in my educational track.  However, I decided to become a liberal-arts major at the university level.”

Did you take a gap year? Or, did you go straight to Gulf University for your undergraduate studies?

“After obtaining my high school degree, I immediately enrolled at the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST), Kuwait. I majored in English education and felt thrilled to start my new journey.”

Where did you study for your undergraduate and graduate degrees? How long did it take to get a diploma for these degrees? Did you work in the field before you went back for a Ph.D.?

“I received my undergraduate degree from GUST back in 2012. I then took about a year off working as a teller at the National Bank of Kuwait with the purpose of saving up some money in order to continue my studies. However, I was lucky enough to obtain a scholarship in order to pursue my graduate degree.

Since FSU offered an excellent graduate program in Curriculum and Instruction, it sparked my interest when browsing for universities. I decided to apply and was lucky enough to receive admission. I spent a total of four years on my undergraduate degree and a total of a year and a half doing my master’s at FSU. After obtaining my master’s degree, I went back to Kuwait to teach English as a second language to native Arabic speakers at the college level. I spent a total of three years teaching English until I recently received another scholarship to continue my education in order to obtain a Ph.D.”

Why did you decide to go to the University of South Florida (USF) for your Ph.D.?

“I chose USF to do my Ph.D. because the college of education at USF is known to be one of the best colleges nationwide. They offer excellent degree-seeking programs and have accreditation by my sponsor. Moreover, USF is a research-driven university. I believe this would best help me in executing my research ideas in order to acquire more expertise in the field of English education.”

USF-University-of-South-Florida-Bulls-PHD

What is the University of South Florida known for with regard to education?

“The College of Education at the University of South Florida has multiple nationwide-recognized awards for its role in research and education. Also, USF’s College of Education received accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Furthermore, the Florida Department of Education approved the Educator Preparation Programs.”

In your opinion, is USF a good university?

“Without a doubt! USF offers a variety of opportunities. They encourage working with professors who are understanding and passionate about what they do. There is also a variety of students that come from different backgrounds that add a unique flavor to the academic settings.”

career pathway

You attended both Florida State University and the University of South Florida. Is USF a better university? What are some of the similarities and differences?

“Once a Seminole, always a Seminole and there’s no doubt in that! FSU has paved the way in making me the educator who I am today. USF is helping me build on the training that FSU provided. I would never make a comparison between the two universities as both are extremely qualified universities that should attract students to their programs.”

What sparked your dream study abroad?

“I have always wanted to study abroad ever since I was a teenager. However, I only got the opportunity to do so after obtaining my undergraduate degree. I believe that studying abroad makes a person grow on multiple levels. Those that study abroad are immersed in a rich culture. This experience offers different opportunities to explore not only the culture but oneself, too.”

ucf college of education

What were your expectations before you left? How did they change once you arrived to the location and what changed since being in the program?

“My expectation before I left Kuwait was that the program was going to be challenging yet very informative. My expectation was certainly met. I was blessed enough to be part of a university with a department that works with capable teachers who have valuable information in the field of English education.”

What have you done since you began your doctoral program? Are there any tips you want to share with any candidates about to start their own doctoral program?

“From the very beginning (and several times early on in my first semester as a doctoral student), I sat down with my advisor. We came up with a projected course of study in order to have a plan that would create the best path for my adventure as a doctoral student. I advise whoever else who has started this journey to have this plan done from the very start. It is so helpful to refer to it when it comes to classes that you need to take that also align with your research interest.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study abroad in the USA for an advanced degree?

“For those who are studying abroad, my ultimate advice to them is that they must constantly remind themselves of why they chose to leave their family and country behind and embark on this new journey. There are times where a person will feel homesick and overwhelmed with the coursework, especially as a doctoral student. However, one should keep in mind that struggle is temporary and a doctoral degree is forever! It doesn’t matter how bumpy the ride is. What matters most is that one reaches his/her designated destination.”

A Career Pathway to Obtaining a Ph.D.

If you are thinking about getting a Ph.D., Dalal talks about five steps to take before leaving for the USA. She went back to Kuwait last summer and plans to return again this summer. I asked her what she misses most about Kuwait while living in the US. She explained that she misses the professional part of her life — the part of being a teacher. She wants to apply the techniques she has learned in attaining her Ph.D. on her students. More specifically, she wants her students back home to learn how to make their voices heard when applying the English language. We will be keeping up with Dalal to see how her final classes go and also discover what her dissertation will be!

 

Wasan Tawfeeq Talks Teaching Arabic at FSU

Last time I saw Wasan was while she was teaching her students Arabic at around 11:00 am on a Thursday morning. The class was attentive, engaged, and speaking Arabic! Since then, Spring semester has ended, the Summer semester is almost over, and Wasan successfully defended her dissertation. Wasan’s dissertation study was, “The Role of Directed Motivational Currents in Second Language Learning by Arab Heritage Learners and Arab ESL Learners.” She will graduate with her Ph.D. this summer and continue to work as Dr. Wasan Tawfeeq at Florida State University in the Department of Modern Languages, teaching Arabic.

What is a typical day at your school like?

students getting taught arabic“I teach two classes from Monday to Thursday. Each class period is about 50 minutes. I teach the first class, which is ARA 1121. It’s a level two Arabic class. The second class is ARA 2220, which is a level three Arabic class, so it’s a bit more advanced.”

How many people do you work with and how many classes do you teach?

“I work with two people mostly. I see the chair of the department and another Arabic professor. We’re all considered faculty. Also, I work with three other employees who help me with administrative stuff like printing and finalizing documents. I teach my two classes alone, however.”

How are you forming relationships with coworkers?

“I enjoy forming social as well as working relationships with my coworkers. We meet during off-campus and on-campus activities. There are a variety of activities that we do during the semester that let us engage with one another and talk about our social lives. Fortunately, we do not just talk about work!”

What about forming bonds with students?

“It is very important for teachers to build positive bonds with their students. The purpose of teaching is not just about how to convey materials, but also the challenge of creating an appropriate atmosphere. My job as a teacher is to help build an environment that helps to strengthen the relationships among the students themselves, as well as between him or herself and the other students.”

How does the school foster the creation and maintenance of these relationships with the students inside and outside of the classroom?

teach abroad teach FSU Florida State Arabic collage classroom FSU logo“As a foreign language teacher, I believe one of the program’s responsibilities is to foster and maintain the relationships between the students and the teachers. Furthermore, it should also foster a relationship among the students themselves. Fortunately, that is what our program does. We schedule a lot of activities. My program fosters activities that are not just related to cultural learning, but also other activities that help students track their Arabic achievement.”

What is your favorite part of the day? Why?

“My favorite part of the day as a teacher is when I see my students understanding the subject. Nothing quite beats seeing them comprehending new material. I love to see my students’ smiles on their faces. It just warms my heart. It tells me that I am doing my job right as a teacher.”

How do you prepare your lessons for each class? If you don’t plan lessons, how do you prepare for class?

Wasan Tawfeeq graduating

“I prepare my lessons on a bi-weekly schedule. Each day I prepare my lesson with a lot of details, since I am teaching a foreign language. I believe it should have games, activities, and videos. I try to make sure that each lesson includes all of the four language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.”

What does teaching mean to you?

“I love teaching, especially teaching Arabic. It is very important to me that I help people learn other languages. Arabic is one of the most important languages in the United States. It is one of the top five most popular spoken language in the US.”

What standards are your classroom teachers using to measure the performance of your students?

“In our program we use tests, oral projects, presentations, quizzes, and final exams. By using a culmination of different grades, we can see where each student shines or is having a more difficult time.”

Teaching Arabic

Does your school have a set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help your students succeed?

“Yes. In my program we have a weekly meeting. During our weekly meeting we discuss what our plans are for our students, so as to help them achieve their goals.”

Looking back at our first Teach Abroad series interview, what have you learned most about yourself since your arrival to the USA? Both in the classroom and out of the classroom?

“I have gained a lot of experience through teaching and life. There is no limit to gaining knowledge because you can learn something new every day. This is especially so in the classroom. Teaching is about exchanging what you know with your students. However, teaching is not a one-way experience. My students are not the only ones who learn, because I am also learning right beside them. Together, we grow every day.”

Both Dreams Abroad and I would like to take a moment to say congratulations on a job well done to Wasan! Best of luck to you on your journey ahead – we are proud to have you as a We Teach member. Congratulations and thank you for the time you spent sharing your story with us. While teaching in itself is a challenge, teaching a foreign language has its added difficulties. Wasan has brought fun back into the classroom while continuing to encourage her students.

by Leesa Truesdell

My Life in Kuwait After Graduate School in the USA

Arrival to Kuwait after FSU

Arrival to Kuwait

I can’t believe that 3 years have passed since I graduated from FSU; yet I still remember the day of my arrival to Kuwait as if it was yesterday. After a flight that lasted more than 11 hours, including a layover in the Heathrow London Airport, I arrived at my home country – my beloved Kuwait. I wanted to surprise my family when they saw me exiting the arrival gate, so I had purchased a graduation gown and cap to wear off the flight. As I was the first grandchild to obtain an MA, everyone was really proud of me. As I entered baggage claim, I saw my whole family, including aunts, cousins, and their children, lined up waiting for me.

My Family

They were holding flowers and signs that said, “You did it!” They threw candies up in the air, along with money coins, cheering for me. As soon as I saw them and how proud they were, I instantly bursted into tears of joy. Every single tear that was dropped that day, either of mine or my family’s, was based upon pleasant feelings. The cherry on top of that day was that my mom has arranged a PINK limo (because it’s my favorite color) to drive me home from the airport. I can’t put into words what I had in my heart that day; I was finally back to where I was supposed to be: Kuwait.

Teaching English

Since I was a scholarship student sponsored by one of the educational institutions, I had my job waiting for me immediately after graduation. I was to be working as a teacher to teach English for adult learners. I managed to get my papers done and signed by the dean. When everything was documented and official, it was time to start attending classes. I was assigned to be part of College of Education. The whole experience was new to me, since it was my first teaching position.

Teaching Philosophy

Lecture hallMy teaching philosophy was mainly focused on building a classroom environment that was friendly and fun, allowing students to learn within a nurturing environment that sheltered their abilities and knowledge of the content. What was surprising for me is that the classroom had an enormous number of language learners, which made the teaching process challenging. Students’ needs had to be met and, in order to do so, I had to work triple the amount to make sure that was happening.

College teaching

My Advice: Explore the Colleges in Advance

My advice to those who are planning on one day holding such position is to go and explore the colleges in advance so as to have an idea as to what kinds of students you are going to teach after graduation. Also, I think it’s a good idea to inquire about the resources available in the classrooms, students’ diversity, and the number of students enrolled in order to prepare beforehand with appropriate resources and ideas for teaching.

Back in Kuwait

Life back in Kuwait after graduate school is wonderful, yet a bit challenging when it came to teaching. It felt so good to be home surrounded by people who love me unconditionally. Whatever I acquired in all of my classes back at FSU, I tried to implement in my teaching. I am who I am today because of my journey; for all its ups and downs I am forever grateful.

welcome home

A Remarkable Experience Studying Abroad in Tallahassee, FL

by Dalal Boland

So, the day had finally arrived and I will be Studying Abroad in Tallahassee. After overcoming multiple obstacles, from the F1-visa not being issued on time, to me rebooking another ticket because of that, I finally managed to get on that airplane where a subtle feeling of comfort had struck me as it was time for takeoff. After an overall flight of more than 16 hours spent on multiple airplanes, I landed in the beautiful capital of Florida, Tallahassee. Due to the overwhelming feeling of excitement, I immediately went on a tour around campus. My acquaintances and I drove under the hot sun of August witnessing the students’ joy of starting their new college adventure. After that, I rented an apartment where I dropped off my luggage and went grocery shopping to buy a few things. After running all of those errands like getting into an American line for grocery shopping, and opening up an American bank account, it was time to settle into the new place I called home: Tallahassee.

studying at FSU

Making Friends and Learning Culture

When school started, I encountered some hard times making new friends, especially since I appeared to be a closed-off person due to my formal behavior/encounters with others. Because of that, I had the chance of becoming close to my instructors. They had the kindest hearts that made me feel like I have a family away from my home country. Then, with time, I started to get to know my classmates. The type of class activities that my classes were based on encouraged me to open up to people, especially since most of the activities involved group work and discussions. To me, each class was viewed as a tool to establish and bolster my social grounds with the people around me. Moreover, I had the chance to learn more about different cultures and even pick up a few words in Chinese and Turkish, because my classes included people from different parts of the world.

Studying Abroad in Tallahassee Has Come to an End

TallahaseeThe time had passed and the chapter of living in Tallahassee was about to come to an end. Even as I am writing this piece, my heart still remembers the difficulty that it felt saying goodbye to my friend that I cherished so much, Mr. Michael Magro. Even though we keep in touch from time to time sharing posts and pictures about our lives, I miss the days that we spent laughing about certain inside jokes that no one understood but us, and the intense feeling that we shared of having to work for late hours in the library with the purpose of putting together a class project.

Leaving This Beautiful City

Finally, the day was here and it was time to pack and leave. Although I did not spend more than two years living in Tallahassee, the memories that I made are priceless. Yes, I admit that there were days I spent sobbing and crying my eyes out because I was missing my family, yet the purpose of going home with a diploma to make them proud always made me hang in there. I would describe the time I spent in Tallahassee as a remarkable experience. It is true that I had left Tallahassee, yet the beautiful memories and the friendships that I have made will forever stay with me.

Learn more about Dalal studying abroad in Tallahassee, Florida in upcoming posts!