When Hana Bekele ’18 enrolled at Wesleyan, she was undecided about a major, but after serving as a counselor for Wesleyan’s Kid’s College summer camp (for children aged four to thirteen) after her second semester, she knew her career path would be early childhood education. Hana had completed field work in several elementary schools in Macon when Associate Professor of Education Dr. Virginia Bowman Wilcox ’90 approached her with the idea of traveling abroad to do her student teaching. Hana knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
Dr. Wilcox began her teaching career at a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school in Columbus, Georgia, and developed strong friendships with administrators that she maintains to this day. Her contacts approached her with the idea of a Wesleyan student serving in a DoDEA school. Last fall, Hana became the first Wesleyanne to complete her student teaching requirement at a DoDEA school in Bahrain. She lived there for three-and-half months and taught in second and third grade classrooms.
Hana says that Bahrain is indeed “the pearl of the Gulf” and that living by herself in such a beautiful country unleashed her sense of curiosity to explore the unknown. The hospitality from the dormitory staff, fellow teachers, and the Bahraini people eased her homesickness, and as a Muslim, she also developed a spiritual connection to the country and its people. “Hearing the call to prayer every day was an indescribable feeling and a highlight of my experience.”
Dr. Wilcox says that Hana “learned to be a self-starter and an independent learner, and now has a foot in the door with Department of Defense schools which operate all over the world.” Following Hana’s semester abroad, Dr. Wilcox traveled to Bahrain to meet with government officials and team members to debrief and discuss ways to make this opportunity more affordable and appealing to Wesleyan students.
As Hana transitions to life as an alumna, this first generation college student and American (her family moved from Somalia) reflects that “Wesleyan was the perfect fit for me. I loved the intimate classroom settings, the sisterhood, and most importantly, the empowering atmosphere. My sisters helped mold me into the Wesleyan woman I am today, and for that, I will be forever grateful.”
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