Jill in Morocco.

Jill’s Bio

  • Major: Political science and French
  • Hometown: Getzville, New York

Jill Ricotta has loved everything about UB, but two things most of all: the chance to study the Arab world and the great education that won’t leave her deep in debt.

Coming from a small, all-girls prep school in Buffalo, Jill wanted to go to a big college where she could meet a great diversity of people.

“My main interests and my major don’t exactly line up perfectly, so I’ve had a lot of professors be very helpful in all the classes I’ve taken over the years and very supportive of me kind of paddling and doing as much as I can in my time as an undergraduate.”

“I knew that UB was a very diverse campus, and the other SUNY schools didn’t really do it for me. I didn’t like the idea of being in the middle of nowhere. Plus to this day, the idea that I don’t have to pay $50,000 a year for school is very appealing.”

Photo of a fort in Alexandria, Egypt.

A fort in Alexandria, Egypt. Jill spent six weeks in the country teaching English to college-age students before the Egypt revolution of 2011.

Seeing the debt loads of friends she’s made while studying abroad, many of whom go to schools like Boston College, drives this home for her. “They’re coming out with more debt than my parents’ house is worth,” she says. But now she feels she can go to the graduate school of her choice. “That’s one of the things I like most about UB: I can go to graduate schools I never would have been able to,” she says.

While she is double-majoring in political science and French, her passion is for Arab studies. Her professors have strongly encouraged her pursuit of it, even though it’s not a major here.

“A lot of the French professors have been very supportive of my interest in the Arab world. I don’t think I could have had a bigger cheerleader for my going to Morocco than Professor Jameson — she was so excited.”

Jill with the CLS Advanced Beginner Arabic Group

Jill with the Critical Language Scholarship Advanced Beginner Arabic Group.

She points out that she didn’t have to go to a small school to have good access to her professors. She’s had dinner at the home of her Arabic professor, Issa Roustum, at least three times. At the Organization of Arab Students’ Arab Night, she joined him at his table talking with his friends. “I don’t think you can get a better professor-student relationship. I just don’t think people think about that kind of thing happening at a state school.”

Jill has studied in pre-revolution Egypt and post-revolution Tunisia as well as Morocco, thanks in part to a prestigious Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. State Department. She lived in Cairo for a month and a half teaching English to college-age Egyptians — just six months before the protests began there. In Tunisia, “people loved to sit you down in a cafe and tell you everything they ever thought about anything related to politics. I got to see what the average Tunisian thinks about the political process and how the revolution affected them on a daily basis,” she says.

“I always knew I wanted to take the four years being an undergraduate and do as much as possible with them. I think I’ve done that.”

Last updated: March 13, 2014 11:10 am EST