“The extraordinary has always been ordinary to me,” explained Tina Žigon, who earned her MA in Literature at Texas State a few years ago and recently completed her PhD at the University at Buffalo while also accepting a position as Assistant Professor at the American University of Kuwait. Indeed, Dr. Žigon’s journey from undergraduate student at the University of Maribor (Slovenia) to Assistant Professor in Kuwait is nothing but extraordinary.
In 2002, while pursuing her degree in English Language and Literature, Tina took an American Literature course with Texas State’s Professor of English, Steve Wilson, while he fulfilled his Fulbright assignment in Slovenia. One afternoon while they were having tea, Prof. Wilson encouraged her to apply for the MA program at Texas State University. Prof. Wilson explained that he saw in Tina not only an insightful student of literature but also a person who had the tenacity to excel at the sort of challenges faced by those who pursue graduate studies in countries other than their own. “I always knew I wanted to do something more than just get a BA, but until Steve said those words, it never occurred to me that studying in the U.S. was even an option,” said Dr. Žigon.
After working through the complicated process of applying to study in the U.S., obtaining a teaching assistantship in the English Department in spite of speaking English as a second language, and traveling half way around the world to a place she had never visited before, Tina proved Prof. Wilson’s intuition right by thriving in Texas State’s MA in Literature program. “When I moved to Texas, I immediately felt at home,” she said, recounting how she began her academic career as a Bobcat in 2003. After graduating with her MA, Dr. Žigon stayed at Texas State for three years as a Lecturer in the English Department, teaching and serving as Assistant to the Director of Lower-Division Studies.
This past April Dr. Žigon defended her PhD dissertation at the University at Buffalo by Skpye from Kuwait, where she had moved with her husband the previous fall. “I’ve always had the desire to study the understudied,” stated Dr. Žigon, “and my main study interests have always been women writers as well as feminist and gender theories.” Her dissertation focuses on poet kari edwards’ a day in the life of p., which was written without using gender pronouns such as “he” or “she,” as well as the poet’s unpublished manuscript. “I am very interested in language and how it can enforce gender norms,” said Dr. Žigon.
“Books and literature are the one constant in my life,” says Dr. Žigon. From a very young age she knew she was passionate about teaching and has shaped her academic career with that passion as the guiding principle: “this love of reading and teaching are the constants that came with me from Slovenia to Texas, then Texas to Buffalo, and now Buffalo to Kuwait.”
One thing that took some getting used to in Kuwait was “that things don’t necessarily operate here on our idea of time…. Everything seems to move slower, “ stated Dr. Žigon, “but when you have to take care of something at the bank and you need to wait, they will serve you coffee or tea, and make your time there comfortable.“ To help her understand more of the culture, Dr. Žigon hopes to start learning Arabic, their official language, this summer. She also looks forward to teaching in the fall after having met some students at different university events over the past nine months. She states, “everybody here very much appreciates and even in a way reveres education…. It’s amazing.”
For Dr. Žigon, home is the place we make for ourselves: “Humans are the same fundamentally everywhere you go… although they may lead a different way of life and embody a different culture from your own. You can teach wherever you are and you can pick up a book and get lost in it wherever you are…. That’s what makes home to me.”
By Leeann Cardwell, International Studies major