From Florida to Heibei: One Alumna is Bridging the Cultural Gap

fedorahFedorah Philippeaux, ’13, couldn’t have imagined her bachelor’s degree in political science would take her half way across the world to teach English to students in China. Philippeaux began her UCF career aiming for a degree in molecular microbiology. Due to financial limits, Philippeaux later decided to change her major to political science, enabling her to earn her degree on time and debt free. During her time at UCF, Philippeaux made a huge impact with her on campus involvement in several clubs and academic programs, as well as making friends with her instructors in the classroom. The College of Sciences recently caught up with Philippeaux and was able to interview her about her time at UCF and the exciting new direction her life has taken.

Why did you choose to attend UCF?

The cost to attend UCF was reasonable and campus was close to my house, enabling me to help my family in caring for my autistic brother. I also thought the college’s programs sounded neat. I fell in love with the campus once I saw it.

How has your UCF degree helped in your career?

My bachelor’s degree was a necessary part in opening many doors for me. I got a job about two months before graduating through browsing the Knightlink job market. I started working with Ameson Year China as an oral English teacher immediately after graduation. I checked Knightlink often in my last semester and applied for any jobs I felt qualified for. My degree helped me because as part of my program I had to take a foreign language (Arabic) and as a result I was better able to teach others how to learn a foreign language which in this case was English. The fact that I had completed several internships and written several academic research papers in my program meant that I was able to demonstrate to Ameson that I was competent and qualified in the areas of both verbal and written communication. My degree also helped me to be very creative and allowed me to be able to come up with creative ways to teach my students. I use a lot of what I have learned about in my own program to teach my students more about American culture.

Have you stayed connected with UCF since graduation?

I’ve sent emails to friends and professors, stayed in contact with the organizations I volunteered with on campus and come back to visit when I can.

What extracurricular activities were you involved in at UCF?

I was a part of the EXCEL program, a mentor for Girls Excelling in Math and Science, director of public relations for the UCF Democrats, Pre-Med American Medical Student Association, Pre-Professional Medical Society, Model United Nations at UCF, and a member of an A Capella group. I interned for Global Perspectives too. I was a very busy student.

What is your best UCF memory?

My best memory is when UCF’s Model UN delegation went to Canada for a conference. Our group was on this little plane and it started having engine trouble. We were all sure we were going to die. Fortunately we made it in one piece.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

My students! They’re freshmen, the cutest ever. They explain things to me about their culture and city, like where to go to avoid buying things for the “foreigner’s price.” They like when I explain things to them about America. Their favorite question to ask is, “but why?”

What has been your most memorable experience on the job?

The first class party the teachers threw for the students. All the American teachers were used to the U.S., where not many students would show up for a school gathering. 500 students showed up at the school by the end of the night. It was chaotic, nerve-wracking and stressful at the time, but now I see it as a good memory. The American teachers even had to go up on a stage. We had to perform a little dance for them. It was all very show-like.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching overseas?

The cultural exchange. My students and I share our cultures openly. It’s great to be able to fix misconceptions and learn more about somewhere so different from everywhere else I’ve been.

What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?

Keep your options open and use every resource available. I found my current position with Ameson Year China through the Knightlink job market. They hired me right away and now I’m teaching in China!

Last, but never least, five lightning round questions!

If you could speak only one language from this moment on, what would it be?


What has been your favorite city or country to visit?

Germany. I love the architecture. The wine is good. Contrary to belief, the people there are very nice.

What movie can you quote word for word?

“The Lion King.”

If someone wrote a book about you, what would the title be?

The Quirkiest, Craziest, Most Determined World Traveler.

What has been the best meal of your life so far?

It was a six course meal at a wedding in Belgium. There were salmon cakes and handmade pastry puffs.

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