Sometimes, being steered the wrong way can wind up being right after all. In the case of Jessica Nagle ’12, a mild deception set her course toward learning a new language, as well as the chance to teach her native tongue to students in Austria.
A resident of Red Lion, Pa., Nagle selected German as her foreign language requirement in high school, in great part because of a boyfriend’s influence.
“He said he’d sign up for the class, but he didn’t,” said Nagle, who graduated summa cum laude from Rider on May 11 with a bachelor of arts in Secondary Education and German, and a minor in ESL.
Undeterred, Nagle threw herself into the language, spoken by nearly 100 million people worldwide, despite having no previous connection to it. Though her family claims German ancestry, “it was many generations ago,” Nagle said, adding that the intervening years had effectively scrubbed the cultural effects of the European nation from her family’s traditions.
“We had sauerkraut and hot dogs on New Year’s Eve,” Nagle recalled. “That’s about it.”
Eight years later, Nagle has been accepted into the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which presents highly competitive grants to recent undergraduate and graduate students. The Fulbright Program, established in 1946, has broadened the dialogue between the United States and other countries and seeks to nurture leaders to work together to address common concerns. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Fulbright U.S. Student grants include study and teaching abroad.
Under the terms of her Fulbright grant, Nagle will travel to Austria in October for a 10-month stint during which she will teach English to German-speaking students, and is expected to devote some 25 hours per week to community involvement. It will not be her first time in Austria, where she studied abroad as a sophomore in 2010. Nagle’s well-traveled shadow has also darkened parts of France, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Italy and Mexico.
“There is just something about foreign cultures and languages,” she said, explaining the appeal of the international experience to her. “You gain such perspective, and it really opens doors.”
Nagle also savored a whole-world experience during her time in Lawrenceville, living in the International Community on Gee Hall, which offers a cultural exchange experience on campus. By living together, international and domestic students learn about each other’s cultures and customs, improve their foreign language skills, and promote respect and friendship among individuals of all nations and backgrounds.
This past academic year saw Nagle gain valuable experience in front of the classroom, student-teaching at Council Rock South High School in Holland, Pa., for 10 weeks before teaching ESL classes at the Dunn Middle School in Trenton. Though her students at Dunn were predominantly Spanish-speaking, Nagle – who also knows a fair amount of French – was able to find some unexpectedly common linguistic ground with one youngster from Haiti.
“I was able to speak some French with him,” said Nagle who says that she may seek to extend her Fulbright experience for another year if it agrees with her.
In earning this coveted distinction, Nagle becomes Rider’s sixth Fulbright student in the past seven academic years. She joins James Byrne ’06 of Westminster Choir College, Rebecca Lynch ’08 of the School of Education, Sarah Khatcherian ’08 of Westminster Choir College, Ericka Kriedel ’09 of the College of Liberal Arts, Education, and Sciences, and Norma Lamo ’11 of the College of Business Administration.