UC Riverside Graduate Student to Teach English in Malta

Monique Mansour awarded Fulbright fellowship to teach on the Southern European island

Monique Mansour will be teaching English in Malta.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – Monique Mansour, a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside in the MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts program, has been awarded a Fulbright fellowship to teach English as a second language in Malta. She will serve as a cultural ambassador from September 2016 to June 2017.

Mansour’s desire to be in Malta revealed itself 10 years ago, when she visited the Southern European island for the first time. As a Chaldean Iraqi she felt connected to the country, which has been influenced by many other cultures.

“I have a Middle Eastern background, I’m Chaldean, which is a minority Catholic dimension of Iraq, I was born in the United States. I feel like I’ve been influenced by many cultures, and so Malta’s rich influence from all over the world – Africa, Europe, Middle East – resonated with me,” explained Mansour.

After her 2006 visit, she knew she had to get back to the country. But her path took a bit of a detour.

Mansour was born and raised in San Diego, and her family later moved to Orange County. She attended Loyola Marymount University as an undergraduate and double-majored in film and sociology. After graduating, she began working full time, but wasn’t fulfilled at her job.

“I wasn’t really sure what direction I wanted to take. So, I started applying to law school. But that didn’t feel right either. As I was sending out applications, I also sent one to what felt most like me – and that was to the MFA program here at UCR,” said Mansour.

As luck would have it, she was accepted at UCR – the only creative writing program she applied to.

“I really missed being creative, and this was the perfect opportunity to do that. And, what I really like about UCR, is that the university is reflective of the world and society we live in, in terms of diversity, and I just felt like I fit right in,” she explained.

While here, Mansour had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant, and discovered her passion for teaching. With her previous desire to return to Malta, she felt like she had a new direction to follow. Mansour attended an information session for Fulbright fellowships, hoping that her two passions can merge into an opportunity abroad. With the help of supportive faculty members who she said encouraged her to move forward, she applied to teach English in Malta. Mansour said about 50 people applied, and only two were accepted – one of them was her.

“I was beyond humbled and completely ecstatic when I received the news,” Mansour said. “A Fulbright grant is extremely competitive and to be given the title of a Fulbright Scholar, it is a huge honor. My first instinct was to give thanks to everyone who helped me get to this place –my family, my friends, my colleagues, my professors, and my mentors. I was and I am completely filled with gratitude.”

Erith Jaffe-Berg, chair and associate professor of the Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production at UCR, wrote one of Mansour’s recommendation letters.

“Monique is a natural cultural ambassador, able to make classmates and students feel invited to participate in conversations and to further embrace cultural difference – as a teaching assistant in our large-format, public-speaking classes, this was apparent,” explained Jaffe-Berg. “Malta, an historical cultural crossroad within the Mediterranean, seems to me the perfect place for Monique to teach English, and she has already expressed to me her own desire to use the time to study Maltese.”

Mansour has been given a two-part assignment. She will teach English to middle school students, as well as college students. She has also been chosen to work with refugees. Mansour will help them learn English and other skills to prepare them for a life in Europe.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the leading international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries, according to the program’s website. The program, which awards approximately 8,000 new grants annually, was established in 1946 under legislation by Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It operates in more than 150 countries.

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