When she begins her teaching career, new College of Education graduate Ioana Bradeanu will have one thing in common with her future students: She knows what it's like to be surrounded by a foreign language in a foreign culture.
A native of Romania, Bradeanu came to the United States in 2004 and enrolled at Georgia Perimeter College a year later. She knew she wanted to study language, but being new to the country, the language and the college admission process was overwhelming. Still, she persevered, eventually transferring to UGA for her bachelor's degree and, now, her M.Ed. in TESOL, or teaching English-speakers of other languages.
The degree builds off her years of studying language in school in Romania, and allows her to now work with students who are also transitioning to English as a predominant language.
"When I got here, I was an ESOL student," she says. "I started as a French major and I loved it. But I felt regret that I didn't go with English. So when I transferred to UGA, I changed my major to English."
Bradeanu began studying French in the second grade, and then started English in sixth. Even with such a strong foundation, navigating life and academics in English was a challenge. "I always liked it, but I felt I did double work for everything. The writing process is such a laborious process."
During her time studying for her bachelor's in English, Bradeanu also gave birth to her first child. She says she feels sheepish that it took her six years to complete her bachelor's, but that's including a year off to care of her baby. After graduating in 2011, she welcomed two more children to the family and focused on them and her husband's growing floor covering business.
But once her family was in place and with a more established support network around, she decided it was time to re-focus on her career. Time spent with her family and reflecting on her English degree highlighted two possible routes, going to law school or becoming a teacher. Teaching, she realized, was her calling.
"I really want a job that I love, but my family is my priority. They really want me to get my degree and have a job, but a law degree isn't what I wanted," she says. "When I graduated (with my bachelor's) we didn't have the TESOL degree. But I knew I wanted to be a teacher."
Bradeanu is now applying for jobs and feels she is finally settling into her own path. For years, she felt pulled in many directions, whether it was through navigating a new culture or helping her children get through their formative years. Today, her kids are ages 3, 6 and 9. She tells them that all this time in school is an investment in their future.
Now, she's able to build off her love of languages and help other children as well.
"This country has offered us so much, and it's so great to get to where we are," she says. "I feel I'm really in the right field because I am really connected to the students through my experience. I tell them, 'You can definitely do it, you just need to work hard. Sometimes I had to work double.'"
Related links: Department of Language and Literacy Education