VERMILLION, S.D. -- Abbey Jones isn’t afraid to try something new. After all, The University of South Dakota student spent two semesters studying in Wales, United Kingdom last year. Next year, she will be teaching English in Indonesia thanks to a grant from the Fulbright Program – the flagship international education exchange program sponsored by the United States government.
Jones, part of USD’s Honors Program, is excited about the possibilities of traveling to another part of the world. Learning about a new culture, she explained, is part of the educational experience.
“I’m just so excited that I have an opportunity like this to be a part of a culture different from one that I grew up with,” she said with a smile.
Sponsored by the United States Department of State, the Fulbright Program was established in 1946 to increase a mutual understanding between people of the United States and other countries, through the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills. The Fulbright Program also provides funding for students, scholars and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and teaching in elementary, and secondary schools. Jones will be teaching at an Indonesian school for 20 hours per week. The rest of her time will be dedicated to community service opportunities.
Service, thanks to her experiences at USD, is second nature to Jones, the daughter of Jim and Susan Jones of Watertown, S.D. As a board member of USD’s Alternative Week of Off-campus Learning (AWOL) program, Jones isn’t afraid to go above and beyond the call of duty in some very impoverished areas of the country. On behalf of community service – through AWOL – she has traveled to several places in need of help, including the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation last month during spring break.
“The trips are really good at teaching students that they can be lifelong agents of social change,” said Jones, who is director of site leader relations for AWOL.
Even though she’s had an opportunity to study abroad at the University of Glamorgan, which is located in the United Kingdom, and will be taking her English skills to Indonesia for a full academic year beginning in August, Jones’ own path to USD was filled with multiple twists and turns despite the fact that both of her parents are USD graduates.
“I went to Minnesota State University Moorhead for a year as a political science and journalism major, but it wasn’t a very good fit for me,” she explained. “I’ve always loved reading and writing, and then one day it hit me, ‘That’s what I’m supposed to do.’”
Since arriving at USD two years ago, she has enjoyed being an English major, particularly under the tutelage of Emily Haddad, chair of the English department. Jones credits Haddad for being her biggest influence on campus.
“She’s brilliant and she gives great advice,” Jones said of Haddad. “She’s helped me and not just with English matters but everything I’ve approached her with.”
Haddad, meanwhile, sees beyond Jones’ classroom qualities and pinpoints the talent that makes her an extraordinary student.
“Abbey has been a terrific student and a leader throughout her time at USD,” stated Haddad, who was also a recipient of a Fulbright to study Arabic. “She is creative, conscientious, smart, and multi-talented – the sort of person who takes the initiative to make a difference. I can’t imagine a student more deserving of this opportunity.”
Before she even learned about the Fulbright results, Jones was prepping herself for the opportunity of a lifetime. One of the Honors Program courses she signed up for this spring focuses on Indonesian culture. In fact, she’s currently studying the Javanese Gamelan, an ensemble musical instrument native to Indonesia.
“It’s almost serendipitous that this class was being offered on Indonesian culture,” she said with a laugh, “It seems like it was just meant to be.”
As she waits for August and the trip to Indonesia, Jones is also dedicating much of her time to learning the Indonesian language with help from Internet courses. The language, according to Jones, has not been too difficult to learn as Indonesian is derived from Malay.
“Even though the cultural influences have existed for centuries, Indonesia has only been a country since 1957,” she added, “so in deciding on a language they chose a modified version of Malay that was easier to teach and easier to learn. But there are hundreds of languages spoken by millions of people throughout Indonesia. Not many countries have that linguistic history.”
Jones isn’t decided on what she will do once the Fulbright experience ends. Extending her education is a possibility, but she’s focused on making the best of the Fulbright, not setting her sights too far beyond that.
“Eventually, I will pursue my master’s degree and probably continue for a Ph.D., but I’m hoping my experience there will have an influence on me,” admitted Jones, who will graduate from USD in May. “I’ve taught ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in the past, which is something I enjoy and something I’d really like to continue.
“Teaching ESL,” she added, “is impacting people’s lives and it’s something I’m good at.”
A photo of Abbey is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/Abbey_Jones.jpg.