One distance student’s unconventional path led her 6,000 miles to The Woods

April 12th, 2012 | SMWC

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would study with professors from the other side of the world or wind up spending a year in Indiana. Truthfully, life has been pleasantly surprising me since the day I discovered Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

I was born in Arizona to an American mother and an Arab father. When I was 8 years old, we moved 6,000 miles to Jordan, and I fell in love with the country. When I began my college search, I discovered Jordan had no colleges with journalism programs in English. I really didn't want to leave my family to study abroad, so it seemed that if I wanted to live at home, I would have to give up my dream of writing.

That all changed when my mother discovered SMWC. She told me about their distance program, which allowed me to do all my work online, eventually resulting in a real bachelor’s degree from a respected, accredited college. After looking at so many online programs that took money and offered little in return, I knew that The Woods was a diamond in the rough.

When I first started at The Woods, I wasn't sure how well I would learn outside of a classroom. Eventually, with a little pushing and advising from my instructors, I fell into a steady rhythm. Just like a campus course, I completed my assignments and received feedback from my SMWC faculty. I turned everywhere I went into a classroom, putting books and printouts in my car and taking half-written essays to coffee shops. I even whipped out a book on Hebrew scriptures while waiting for my sister in the fitting room. Anytime I got an assignment back with positive comments and words of encouragement, I knew it was all worth it.

I learned a lot of facts from my textbooks, but I picked up a lot of practical skills from assignments. Before SMWC’s distance program, I had never walked up to a stranger and asked them for an interview. However, by the time I completed my first journalism course, I had done it so many times that it no longer fazed me.


Jaradat, with Dee Reed, executive director of College Relations, and Debbie Miller, associate director of career development, interned with SMWC's Office of College Relations during her first semester as a campus student.


In my junior year as a distance student, I decided to move to Indiana and spend my senior year on campus. Dr. Paul Salstrom, who had recently taught me in an online history course, welcomed me on my very first day. I had never met him in person, but after a few minutes of conversation (and a little bit of help pronouncing my name) it was like we already knew each other. I felt that way about so many members of SMWC’s faculty and staff who I had been calling and emailing over the years. The people working here make an extra effort to forge connections with students who don’t live on campus. I was able to come from across the world to this college with built-in knowledge of its community and the ability to operate academically as a senior. I never felt like I was behind anyone else on campus. After all, I had been receiving an SMWC education for three years – I had just been doing it from further away.

Now, as I approach graduation, I realize none of this would have been possible with any other school. I have had the support and encouragement of SMWC all along, whether I’ve been on campus or in Jordan, and I am lucky to be here. I know this is where I’m supposed to be.

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