Lecturer Amira Shourbaji is the latest UM-Dearborn faculty member to land a Fulbright
The English language proficiency instructor is used to helping international students adjust to life in a different country. Now, she’s preparing to walk a mile in their shoes.
UM-Dearborn faculty are on a bit of a roll when it comes to Fulbright fellowships. Back in March, we got word that three professors from the College of Arts, Sciences and Letters received 2019 awards. That included linguistics professor Daniel Davis, who’s traveling to the Philippines to study how the English language influences culture there and vice versa; Assistant Professor of History Anna Mueller, who’s working on an ethnographic project focused on northwestern Polish villages in the second half of the 20th century; and Professor Bill DeGenaro, who’s in Jordan developing higher-education curriculum for teaching writing to multilingual learners.
Now, add English Language Proficiency Program Lecturer and CEHHS alumna Amira Shourbaji to the list of Fulbrighters. In the fall, Shourbaji ('07 M.A., '17 Ed.D.) will begin a 10-month fellowship in Bahrain, where she’ll lead English-language classrooms at the country’s main teacher’s college. In some ways, it’s a natural extension of her work at UM-Dearborn, where her day-to-day involves helping international students who are provisionally admitted to the university meet their English proficiency requirements. But Shourbaji also sees it as a bit of a role reversal — since she gets to be the newcomer this time around.
“When I told my students, who are mostly from the Arabian Gulf, they were giving me all kinds of tips and words of support — which is really fun because it’s normally what I do for them,” Shourbaji tells us. “Now, I’m the one that has to find an apartment, figure out how to get around and be brave speaking the language. I’m sure there will be culture shock, so it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.”
Shourbaji says she’s had a dream of teaching abroad for a while now — not only for her, but for her four children ages 2 to 14, who are tagging along for the trip.
“I have so much respect for our international students. They’re away from their homes, their friends, the culture here is really different. And I’ve always wanted my own kids to have that kind of immersive experience because you learn so much from being out of your comfort zone.”
That said, Shourbaji says her kids didn’t need much convincing when she asked them to be her travel partners. Her eldest, in fact, is already scouting her new school’s uniforms and is more excited than nervous to kick off her high school years with an adventure in Bahrain.
Shourbaji begins her fellowship on September 1. To read more about what UM-Dearborn’s other 2019 Fulbrighters are up to, check out this story.