Anna Wageling '15

Political Science and International Affairs Major | Housing Case Manager and Employment Counselor at the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
wageling anna

Please tell us about yourself and where you are now today.

I am currently a Housing Case Manager and Employment Counselor at the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (also known as Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program), located in Colchester, Vermont. I work to find refugees housing and jobs as they start over in the United States and advocate on their behalf within the community. I have been in this position for about one year and before that I was in AmeriCorps at another refugee resettlement agency, the International Institute of New England, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Did you have another major and/or minor at UNH? What impact did studying a language have on your other field/discipline?

At UNH, I was an International Affairs and Political Science major and I minored in Middle Eastern Studies. Studying Arabic made all the difference in my Political Science major as I was able to use what I learned to help me understand complicated relationships in the Middle East in my more disciplined courses.

Language instructor/professor who made the biggest impact and why?

Professor Pokorny laid the basics of one of the most difficult languages to learn and made each transition to a new concept seamless. She was able to show us how fun Arabic and the Middle Eastern culture is, which has profoundly affected my current employment and how I interact with my clients. Most people know Arabic is difficult and she handled our struggles and accomplishments with grace.

What is your favorite memory from abroad?

I studied abroad in Amman, Jordan in the spring of 2014. My favorite memory from abroad was visiting Petra in the southern part of the country. We spent all day walking around the ancient sites, then rode camels to a Bedouin camp to sleep under the stars and enjoy a traditional meal along with singing and dancing.

Why was language important to your UNH education? How has your language major benefitted you?

Language incorporated into my UNH education has changed my life forever. Through my Arabic classes, I learned time management and practice of what you learn is crucial to success. In addition, my internships, AmeriCorps experience, and current employment are a direct result of my language courses. As a case manager working with refugees, some of my clients are from Iraq, Syria, and Sudan. I have been able to use my Arabic speaking, writing, and listening skills to speak with clients to help colleagues and to effectively communicate with New Americans.

High-impact learning experiences while at UNH (e.g. study abroad, URC or other undergrad independent research -- SURF, UROP, IROP, experiential learning, internship, etc.)?

I had opportunities to study abroad, participate in the URC (Undergraduate Research Conference), and complete an internship, which all related to my Arabic classes. I learned more about the various cultures, the complicated history woven into the region, and American foreign policy.

If you could talk to a prospective student, what would you tell them about the value of majoring in a language at UNH?

Majoring or minoring in a language can quite literally alter your future. It sets you apart from other candidates vying for the same employment as you. It will teach you the value of time management and patience. It will teach you not to take your ability to speak English for granted. It gives you a new respect for yourself and your bilingual or multilingual classmates. I am forever thankful that I had the chance to take a language and had a professor willing to help me along the way. Even when it is hard and you want to drop the class- don't. You won't regret it.

What are your goals for the near and distant future?

My goal is to work with an NGO in a refugee camp or within immigration at USCIS as a foreign service officer. I have decided to dedicate my life to refugees and humanitarian aid and will continue to use and practice my Arabic, which has come in handy many times.