Wagner College is pleased to announce that 2015 graduate Arijeta Lajka has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant for an English Teaching Assistantship in Turkey for the 2016-17 academic year from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
Lajka is one of over 1,900 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and provide expertise abroad for the 2016-17 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.
Lajka is an experienced world traveler, journalist and teacher of English and writing.
Lajka completed her B.A., cum laude, in English and political science in December 2015. At Wagner College, she served as managing editor of the Wagnerian student newspaper and as a Writing Intensive Tutor for three years.
The first Wagner College student to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, Lajka studied abroad in Kosovo in 2014. While taking coursework at the American University in Pristina, she also worked as a translator, editor and reporter for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. (Read more about her experiences in Pristina.)
Since then, she has completed an internship at the PEN American Center in New York and served as an editorial assistant for Vice News. She has covered news from the Balkans and the Middle East, as well as human rights and environmental topics.
In Turkey, Lajka will teach English at Abant Izzet Baysal University in Bolu, in a beautiful mountainous region located between Istanbul and the capital city, Ankara.
Lajka was born and raised on Staten Island, but her parents are originally from the Balkan nation of Montenegro, which was once part of the historic Ottoman Empire. During visits with family in Montenegro, she became fascinated with Turkish culture from an early age. She speaks a dialect of Albanian that has certain similarities to the Turkish language and she remembers watching Turkish soap operas with her grandmother.
She is looking forward to learning Turkish and being engaged in the local community. She is especially interested in meeting with the large refugee population fleeing wars and economic deprivation in Syria, Libya and other countries.
“Turkey has taken in more Syrian refugees than any other nation, and a number of ‘irregular’ asylum seekers have been forcibly sent back to Turkey from the EU,” she notes. “I would love to connect with some of these refugees while I’m there, to learn how these cases are being handled and see how they are assimilating.”
Lajka also was admitted to the M.S. program at the Columbia University School of Journalism. Upon her return to the U.S. in 2017, she plans to continue her education there.
Lajka is the third Wagner student in the past three years to have been awarded Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants for English Teaching Assistantships. Kellie Griffith ’14 was a Fulbright ETA in Ecuador in 2014-15 and Allie Sethares ’15 was a Fulbright ETA in South Korea in 2015-16.
Update, July 28: The Fulbright program has begun cancelling some of its placements for the 2016-17 year in Turkey due to the recent coup attempt and government crackdown. Lajka's program was among those cancelled. Fortunately, Columbia University has reinstated an earlier offer for a scholarship to its School of Journalism, and Lajka will start there in August.