The U.S. Department of State has selected two recent Concordia College graduates to teach abroad through its Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Avyan Mejdeen ’22 of Moorhead, Minn., and William Southworth ’21 of Helena, Mont., were both awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, a nationally competitive award.
Mejdeen will be teaching in Kosovo starting in October 2022. She chose the country for her Fulbright application partly due to its similarities to Kurdistan, Iraq, where she called home as a young child before moving to Moorhead. While there, she also hopes to gain experience helping Afghan refugees.
“All my life I've been reading out of books when it came to international laws and processes,” Mejdeen said. “But I think you gain a better perspective and empathy for understanding when you go and live in those places. I wanted to go to Kosovo to broaden my perspective of international development and international human rights affairs.”
Following her assistantship, Mejdeen will be working in Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office in Washington, D.C. She hopes to then attend law school to become an international human rights attorney.
Mejdeen thanks current and former mentors at Concordia, Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, Dr. Ken Foster, and Dr. Tess Varner for their support through college and advises students to go out of their comfort zone and network.
Southworth will spend his assistantship teaching English in Germany. He is currently assistant teaching at a secondary school in Spain as part of the country’s North American Language and Culture Assistants Program. Following his time in Germany, he will attend James Hopkins University to earn a Master of International Affairs degree.
Southworth said he never meant to become a teacher but became interested after a weekend trip to Concordia Language Villages segued into two summers there, deepening his appreciation for immersive language learning.
His advice to students is to study abroad whenever they can.
“I owe all my best experiences to my tendency to throw myself in places I don't quite belong,” Southworth said. “That tendency landed me interviews with Cuban prisoners of state and British politicians, put me in parliament and international trade conferences, and made me friends all over the world.”
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program has a national average of one out of five applicants earning awards, according to Dr. Jonathan Steinwand, Concordia’s Fulbright program advisor. Half of Concordia’s applicants won awards this year. In 2020-21, three out of five applicants were successful. In the past 10 years, one out of three Concordia applicants has earned awards.
“To become a Fulbright student is one of the highest achievements a student from the United States can earn,” Steinwand said. “Concordia College has excellent language programs, study abroad experiences, and the world-renowned Concordia Language Villages. We also have a strong undergraduate research program. Students who tap into those experiences have compelling stories to tell about their language ability, their intercultural experiences, and their own personal growth.”