Greetings from I.S. Majors Currently Studying Abroad
Colin Johnson Tartu, Estonia University of Tartu’s Prometheus Program
Well, I was raised in the "middle of nowhere" in Texas, and I′ve continued the trend by studying abroad in the "middle of nowhere" in Tartu, Estonia. My name is Colin Johnson, and I′m studying at the University of Tartu under the Prometheus Program, which studies EU-Russian relations and transitional politics. So right now, I′m swimming in Russian language and Russian politics with a good dose of law thrown in. The program is an international program, so I′ve immensely enjoyed speaking with the seemingly overwhelming number of Georgians that are in the program, as well as my good friend from Transnistria (the breakaway republic in Moldova). Although I will have to say that I′ve enjoyed the Polish students the most overall, but the Russians are a close second. Estonia is has been wonderfully cold, and I′ve thoroughly enjoyed training with Estonia′s national track and field coach in Tartu. Unfortunately, I don′t understand his apparently amazing sense of humor, because I don′t know Estonian. But Tartu is a fantastic city, and I look forward to my trips to Tallinn, Riga, and Latvia later in the semester. But if you ever visit Estonia, don′t expect to be welcomed aloud. Culturally, Estonians are inclined to silence... all the time. So if you don′t ask for help in a store, they won′t offer it, nor do they say anything in response to holding the door open or when you slip on the sidewalk. They′re a warm people, just a little quieter than normal... Visit Estonia, it′s worth it!!
Scott O′Hara, Jerusalem, Israel, Hebrew University′s Rothberg International School.
Studying in Jerusalem has been a dream. I am in contact with a plethora of cultures, and not just Israeli′s and Palestinians. This city is flooded with students, visitors and pilgrims, each with their own personal and spiritual motives for arriving in this ancient city. HU′s Rothberg program has allowed me to study with other students from all over the United States and the world. The school has a top notch Hebrew program that has allowed me to converse with Israeli′s (albeit in a basic form) despite that fact that only six weeks ago I couldn′t even figure out the alphabet (or Aleph-Bet as they say here). The academic courses here are also stellar, with many of my professors not only being experts in their field but also participants in the region′s history.
As you may know, Israel was recently engaged in the Gaza Strip and experienced a very close parliamentary election. The uncertain ramifications of both have had a huge effect on the political psyche of the Israeli′s that I have come in contact with. This is especially true for the human rights and peace groups in the country. In addition to my studies, I am working with an organization called the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions and gaining real world experience in field of Human Rights. The political climate that ICAHD is currently operating in has highlighted many of the difficulties of working with an NGO but have only encouraged me to continue in this field. Also, my research and advocacy activities with ICAHD has allowed me to begin creating a network of contacts in the region which will undoubtedly come in handy after I graduate.
Overall, the combination of real world experience with specialized IS courses and Hebrew have created a study abroad experience beyond my wildest expectations.
Katherine Delavan Granada, Spain Academic Programs International (API)
Hola! I have been studying in Granada since February, and I can’t believe the opportunities and activities I’ve been able to take part in overseas. Since the beginning of my study abroad experience I have travelled to Ireland, Rome, and surrounding cities in Spain such as Madrid, Malaga, and Cadiz. I have been able to see the Cliffs of Moher in Galway (Ireland), St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and the beautiful and diverse landscape around where I live. Every time I have travelled away from Granada I found myself strangely homesick for the picturesque city bordered by the ocean and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Granada’s location is amazing, and I have been able to hike in the mountains, build sand castles on the beach, and snowboard in the Sierra Nevadas! I love the people of this city, and they are eager to help me improve my Spanish skills. My Spanish family and I have become very close, and it consist of myself and my roommate, my host mother Marieta, her daughter Claudia (16), and her mother. Classes are difficult but not overly so, and the teachers are helpful and thankfully have a sense of humor (you would need it to deal with some of our speaking skills). Overall I think my language skills are definitely improving, and each day I become more comfortable with living in a country where Spanish is the primary language. In the future I will be travelling to Portugal, Bilbao and the north of Spain, Morocco, and the south of France (I could not be more excited). I have learned many things since coming to Spain, and one of the most important is that everyone has something to teach you. No matter if I am talking with my “little sister” Claudia, or having a conversation about Franco with my “abuela” (grandmother), I have begun to better understand both the language and the culture of these people with whom I live. I couldn’t be happier! Hope all is well in the States!
Courtney Eskew is currently studying in Marseilles France where she is taking the class “France and North Africa.” It is basically an examination of the political and historical relation between these two regions. She happily report s “my experiences in Marseille have directly influenced my academic experience at AUCP. For example, one weekend I met an individual -while I was out and about in the city centre- who claimed that he was Algerian, but not Arab or Berber. Afterwards, this struck me because I had just studied the only two Algerian ethnicities given to us in class: Arab and Berber.” Courtney mentioned this to her professor thus beginning a discussion of the Grand Kabiyle, a region of berberphones in Algeria distinguished by their relationship with France during the history colonialism. This eventually became the topic of her oral presentation. Courtney says, “speaking French, thinking in French, and reading in French all day, every day, has been the most difficult adjustment.” She recently discovered that she is a recipient of one of the Critical Language Scholarships sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Therefore, once she returns from her French language immersion program, she will almost immediately depart for Jordan, Tunisia, or Egypt to participate in an intensive Arabic language immersion program.
Alison Morrell is in Yaroslavl Russia in the Golden Ring about 4 hours from Moscow where she has not been able to avoid the snow and ice n spite of missing the winter weather Memphis experienced the first weekend in March. She’s on a program through Middlebury College and really likes it so far. One of her biggest challenges has been Middlebury′s Language Pledge whereby all students have to sign a pledge to speak only Russian amongst themselves and in their everyday lives. Alison reports that it was difficult at the beginning but it′s exciting to see how much she has improved over the past month.
Alison says, “life in Russia was difficult to get used to, but now I have settled in and am trying to take advantage of every opportunity here.”