For most students, study abroad is a chance to become fluent in a foreign language through an immersion experience. But Jordan Stewart, ’12, took a different approach. She spent a semester in Scotland learning the nuances and variances of the English language as part of her preparation for graduate school in speech language pathology.
Stewart, who enrolls at the University of Buffalo this fall, reached her decision to pursue speech language pathology after a long process of elimination. She has always been a rhetoric and communication studies major, but her focus has shifted from advertising and public relations to theater management and nonprofit organizations, before landing on her current track.
“That’s what was so advantageous about my major,” she says. “I had such flexibility and broadness within it. I was able to change my mind about what I wanted to do a good seven times.”
When a friend mentioned speech language pathology, Stewart realized it was what she’d been looking for all along. “It mixes together this scientific aspect, being able to understand the physical interactions of the ear, mouth, and oral muscles, and being able to work interpersonally with people, which is really what I crave. And then I just found that it had a great amount of opportunity out there, because it’s a growing field.”
When she started looking into graduate schools, Stewart found that many programs look for candidates who studied communication sciences and disorders as undergraduates — a major not offered at the University of Richmond.
Again, the flexibility of her major proved to be beneficial. She enrolled in summer classes and shadowed professionals in the field to round out her studies. When the time came to choose a study abroad program, Stewart considered a semester in Spain to pair with her Latin American and Iberian studies minor, but ultimately she decided the speech classes offered in Edinburgh, Scotland were a better complement to her future plans.
In particular, a linguistics class gave her a chance to study the sounds of different languages, and a research project allowed her to explore the variations of the “ing” sound.
“Some people alter their sounds in different contexts,” she says. “They might say, ‘I’m going runnin’,’ instead of ‘I’m going running.’ We were trying to figure out if that happens after saying certain words, or if it’s when they’re with different groups of people, like a group of friends.”
Now gearing up for graduate school, Stewart plans to take the same approach that led her to speech language pathology when she looks for a career focus — just keep trying new things until she finds what speaks to her. No matter what path she ends up taking, Stewart is excited about the possibility of helping others.
“You have to have hope,” she says. “You have to be a big motivator. A lot of people are constantly torn down and told all of the things they can’t do. I want to tell them all of the things they can.”