Ghadah Al Morshedi Prepares for English Teaching Career in United Arab Emirates
by Joe Savrock (June 2011)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Mastering the English language has been a lifelong objective for Ghadah Al Morshedi. Now that she can read, write, and speak English quite proficiently, her objective has risen to a new level: to teach the language.
Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Al Morshedi is pursuing a duel Ph.D. degree in curriculum and instruction and in comparative and international education. She chose Penn State for her doctoral studies, she says, “because it is one of the best universities, and it has the programs I am interested in—applied linguistics and education with different rich majors.”
She has always valued education. “I loved school when I was very young,” she remembers. “I think my desire to be a teacher is derived from my teaching to my younger sisters and brothers.”
There is one person in particular who has inspired Al Morshedi to succeed.
“My mother raised me and my siblings on the idea that education is the future, especially for women,” Al Morshedi says. “Even though my mother does not know how to read or write, she is passionate about learning. She did not get the chance to go to school—she and my father got married very young. When I face challenges in my study here at Penn State, I just remember the words of my mother, which inspire me to complete what I have started.”
Al Morshedi grew up in the village of Al Bedya, located in Fujairah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates. While hungry to learn English, she feels that her elementary and high school experiences didn’t give her much chance to apply her language skills. “English language classes were not taught in a vacuum,” she states. “English was taught among other subjects that were predominantly taught in Arabic.”
Al Morshedi admits that she struggled with the fundamental differences between the English and Arabic languages. “Arabic is written from right to left,” she says. “English has capital and small letters; Arabic doesn’t have that kind of convention. And Arabic has joined letters—English letters are separated.
“I remember in high school, memorizing sentences and connecting them in simple paragraphs,” she continues. “I wrote a paper about smoking, a subject I had strong opinions about. My first draft was horrible!”
But she pressed forward. “I am passionate about learning about different fields and I survive by challenge,” she says.
Al Morshedi attended United Arab Emirates University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in applied linguistics and a higher diploma in education. Shortly afterward, she began working at that university as a teaching assistant. She has held other teaching positions around her home country.
Later she came to the United States to study at Penn State. Last year she earned master’s degrees in applied linguistics and educational leadership and then began her doctoral-level studies.
When she first arrived at Penn State, she felt she had a reasonably good command of English. “But,” she recalls, “there were communicative challenges that provoked an internal struggle.”
She found the comparative and international education coursework to be very helpful. “These courses were very interesting to me because we—especially the international students—could share our own experiences and educational backgrounds,” she explains. “We could discuss our own native countries’ situations related to policies, educational systems, et cetera and compare them to the American system to better understand our own.”
Al Morshedi has no particular timetable for completing her doctoral studies. After she receives her degree, she plans to return to UAE University and teach. She also hopes to work with other institutions, such as Abu Dhabi Educational Council and the Ministry of Education.
She expects that her hard work will ultimately benefit learners in her homeland. “I would like to improve my academic skills in research and teaching and help my students to depend on themselves to learn and be leaders, because my country is in need of leaders who are educated.”
Al Morshedi is grateful to have received her educational opportunity. “I really want to thank everyone who supported me in my country and at Penn State to learn and succeed,” she says.