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Pine-Richland graduate awarded Fulbright scholarship

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
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Jennifer Jokl, 21, of Richland, was named a 2014-15 Fulbright Scholar by the U.S. Department of State. The 2010 Pine-Richland graduate will travel to Macau in August to teach English as a second language to college students for the next year as part of the Fulbright Program.

Jennifer Jokl is spending the summer at home in Richland for the first time in four years, but don't expect her to stick around for very long.

The recent college graduate, 21, is a veteran world traveler who has spent the past four summers abroad and soon will be jaunting off on another trip.

Jokl, a 2010 Pine-Richland graduate, was awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship from the U.S. Department of State. She'll travel to the Chinese island of Macau in mid-August to teach English as a second language to college students at the Macau Polytechnic Institute for the next year.

“I'm really thrilled,” Jokl said. “I'm looking forward to teaching again.”

The Fulbright Program, overseen by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, is the nation's largest international exchange program that sends students abroad to teach English or perform research studies.

Jokl will join about 2,800 U.S. students and scholars who are sent abroad each year by the program.

Jokl is no stranger to traveling. She has made six trips abroad during her college career at Rollins College, including two semesters. She has visited London and cities in China and spent last summer teaching English as a second language in China.

Her love of travel was sparked after her family lived in Hong Kong for several years when she was a child. Jokl said she lived in Hong Kong until she was 5 while her father, a PPG employee, set up a branch of the company there. Ever since she left Hong Kong, she has wanted to return.

“I love how fast-paced it is and in my own small way being present for a country that is so in flux right now,” Jokl said.

Macau is a former Portuguese colony that was the first and last European settlement in China. The small island sits just east of mainland China and is a huge tourist destination, Jokl said. Like Hong Kong, Macau is a special administrative region of China and has a high degree of autonomy from the country except in matters of foreign policy and defense.

Jokl graduated from Rollins College, located in Winter Park, Fla., in May with degrees in international business and Asian studies. One of the main reasons she attended Rollins was because of its study-abroad program, which allows incoming freshmen to do a short-term program abroad.

Giselda Beaudin, director of international programs at Rollins, said college officials encourage students to travel abroad because they will become more engaged, well-rounded people.

“Students just need to be in spaces where they're being challenged and being forced to be more independent,” Beaudin said. “Study abroad is one of the experiences that students consistently say they've developed self-reliance and independence.”

Jokl said she never has been too worried about the language barrier when traveling to China, especially now that she speaks conversational Chinese. She said when visiting China now, she opts to speak English only if she can't understand a person's regional dialect.

One of the best parts of traveling is the food, Jokl said. Her favorite is street-vendor food, but she's not afraid to try a little bit of everything.

Jokl's ultimate goal after completing her Fulbright scholarship is to land back in Hong Kong with a business job of some sort, although she's not exactly sure what. She hopes her background with the Fulbright Program will help her get a foot in the door somewhere.

“My dream job is kind of a vague one, I'm just kind of exploring my opportunities,” she said. “I want to get a job where I can speak Chinese and interact with as many kinds of people as I can.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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