Wolverines Around the World: Emily Kastl
We all got the question a million times after graduation: “What are you going to do with your communications degree now?” Come on, people! Can’t we enjoy our blissful undergrad-spillover naivety for just a bit longer?! OK, so maybe it is a fair question. We just graduated from one of the greatest institutions in the world (Hail!), so of course people want to know what’s next for the Leaders and Best. Well, you can imagine the fun I had when I got to answer the question with, “I’m moving to Bangladesh for a year!”
As I was making my way through my final Communication Studies requirements, I never thought I would find myself in the field of education after graduation. I did think I would find myself living abroad, however. After going to Spain with the Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates (GIEU) my sophomore year, I was bitten by the travel bug and eagerly awaited another chance to get out of the country. In stereotypical confused-millennial fashion, I saw my first year post-undergrad as the perfect chance. I didn’t see myself doing the whole backpack around Europe thing, though – I wanted to do something that would help me develop professionally, but more importantly, I wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on others.
To backtrack a bit more, during an internship at Oxford University Press my junior summer I realized many of my colleagues had spent their first year after college teaching English abroad. They all convinced me it was a great way to get an intercultural experience while helping others learn a new skill. “I know English, I could do that,” I thought. Maybe this was my ticket out of the US after turning my tassel? Upon returning to Ann Arbor in the fall, I made a couple of visits to the International Center and started an intensive online search for English teaching programs abroad. I stumbled across WorldTeach, an NGO that focuses on developing countries by working with governments and local institutions to identify needs and provide qualified volunteers. What held my interest, though, was their program at the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Bangladesh.
AUW is the first liberal arts university in Asia for women. The student body consists of young women from 16 different countries, including Syria, Afghanistan, Nepal, Vietnam and Cambodia. AUW’s mission is to provide an education to those who have historically been denied access at zero-to-low cost. WorldTeach sends volunteers each year to serve as teaching assistants, writing center tutors, and administrative staff. The combination of liberal arts and advancement of women’s education had me writing my application essays and polishing my resume in no time.
Now, eight incredibly meaningful months later, I am coming to my end of service with a mix of emotions. I am sad to be leaving the students and colleagues I have grown to love, but I am so grateful to have had this experience. Though I came to Bangladesh to be a TA and a tutor, I have learned more from the students I have met than I could ever teach them. They have shared their cultures, experiences, and aspirations with me and I cannot wait to see the positive impacts they have on their countries and the world.
Back to that question I kept getting after graduation – I could literally see the thought forming in people’s minds: “she has a communications degree, but she is going to Bangladesh (wherever that is) to be a teacher?” Yep! Though I may have chosen to do something a bit “unconventional” with my degree, I have been able to apply the knowledge I received from the Communication Studies department every day – how to think critically, ask meaningful questions, write clearly, and communicate effectively.
To all of the new graduates, don’t be afraid to think outside the box – your hard-earned degree can take you places you never dreamed. But wherever you decide to go, and whatever you decide to do, GO BLUE!