Arts & Culture / Mosaic / January 18, 2018

Students return from term abroad


(Photo courtesy of Emma Newman)

Junior Emma Newman decided she wanted to explore a piece of the Middle Easter. As a result, she spent August to early November of her third-year living in Amman, Jordan.

She was able to celebrate two holidays with her host family: Eid, a Muslim holiday, and the King’s birthday. While Eid consisted of a lot of fasting, Newman was able to taste numerous Jordanian dishes in a large meal that ended the celebration: most notably the traditional dish Maqluba: the name of which translates to “upside down.” For the King’s birthday, many people got the day off of work.

Culturally, Newman found that language proved to be a barrier more so than she had initially anticipated. Since the program had no language requirement, she thought she would get by just fine; however, her lack of Arabic skills brought a new form of depth to her learning experience. At one point in her trip, she went to a barbershop where she communicated with the person cutting her hair using Google translate. Much of her interactions were rooted in knowing basic Arabic phrases, the other side knowing a little English, and a lot of gestures.

“I learned that communication spans across language. You need a language to communicate, but I was able to get by,” Newman said.

Along with Amman, Newman was able to go to the northernmost and southernmost borders of Jordan. She visited Wadi Rum within Jordan, and Cyprus, an island off the coast of Israel and Palestine. In Wadi Rum she lived in a village for a few days, and she stayed in Cyprus for five days. Newman noted that, wherever she went, the people she met made the trip for her.

“I think that a lot of people, when they think about Jordan or the MENA region, they think of things as being so foreign and so different and that’s something that I really appreciate–that people are people everywhere,” Newman said. The people I lived with were so incredible, even though the food, the language, everything was so different.”

(Photo courtesy of Julia Volpe)

In her three years here, Junior Julia Volpe has studied abroad three different times, twice in China and most recently in India. Last fall term, Volpe participated in ACM India: Culture, Traditions, and Globalisation. This program takes place in the city of Pune, in the state of Maharashtra. Volpe had an opportunity to learn about the history of Maharashtra in her classes and glimpse Indian culture outside of the class.

“There were a lot of festivals. Every day they were celebrating something. There was the Ganesh festival, Navratri festival, Diwali festival,” Volpe said.

Volpe visited Mumbai and Rishikesh as well. Where in many instances, Volpe was scrutinized because of her American nationality and foreign accent, she also fondly remembers the Indians who regarded her as a guest in their country and made sure she was welcomed and comfortable.

She recalls a really nice rickshaw driver who helped her and her friend after a particularly long day of travelling. This rickshaw driver drove them around for a while to show them how to navigate the new town and bought them ice cream. It was meeting such kind people in strange places and making unforgettable connections that made the experience worth it for Volpe.

While living with her host family she was expected to be home early every night. She had to adjust to the more conservative customs of India. It ended up being an important part of her study abroad experience, because being considerate of her host family’s customs taught Volpe to adapt.

“It makes you adapt and be flexible. The experience also takes away your judgement. Americans tend to form set opinions about other countries and judge easily. So the experience opens you up to new ideas and you learn not to judge them,” Volpe said.

Volpe frequently thinks about how her experiences abroad translate to international students’ experiences on campus.

“Knox –and other colleges –should talk more about being a minority and studying abroad and how you are viewed abroad. We should talk more about international students coming to Knox. I didn’t realise that was a problem until I went to study abroad myself,” Volpe said.

(Photo courtesy of Domanique Rahman)

Junior Domanique Rahman ’19 studied abroad in Cameroon through Carleton College’s Globalisation and Sustainable Development program.

After the first few weeks, Rahman went from living in an English speaking city to a French speaking town. The language barriers in the latter were particularly challenging for Rahman as his french skills are minimal. Rahman stated that he often felt lonely during his stay in the town.

During his time there, he got to work with an NGO that had several projects concerning women’s empowerment, potato farming and wine bottling.

“There’s a wine that comes out of a raffia tree. They found a way to pasteurize it and bottle it. It is a billion dollar idea, they just need someone to invest in it,” Rahman said. “Sometimes they give wine to two-year-olds. I [was] like —WOAH!”

The funeral culture of the locals was a unique experience for Rahman as well; he described the funeral as more akin to a celebration. He attended three or four funerals while in Cameroon. Often, people will sever the head of their loved one’s corpse and bury it in the village they were born in. Afterwards, they start celebrating with music, dancing and food.

Because Rahman lived with a family and worked in the city, his experiences varied from students who got to study abroad on a campus. He got to work with professionals and heads of NGOs very frequently. Rahman was provided with a lot of information about sustainable development — the field he is interested in.

As of now, Rahman is packing for another study abroad experience for next term. The destination for his study abroad will be Botswana, with development in South Africa as the main goal of his program. Rahman will mostly be spending time on a college campus there.

“It’s gonna be on a campus. It’s gonna be lit!” Rahman said.

(Photo courtesy of Sachika Goes)

Sophmore Sachika Goel spent her winter break attending theatre, watching live musicals and hanging out at jazz bars in London. The London Arts Alive program took Goel to London for the first time in her life. Even though it is an arts centered program, Goel noted that students from various majors were a part of it.

“This program was not specific to a subject, we just got to learn and explore London,” Goel said.

She was warned about pickpockets, but other than the minor warning, the city felt completely safe to her. However, Goel did notice a lot of diversity in London culture as well.

“You know how Galesburg is a small town, so you don’t really see much diversity outside of Knox, but London was more open to it. You could even even see the diversity in the food.” Goel said.

Though not shocked by London culture, Goel did find herself surprised when she explored some of the art galleries in London. In one of the galleries she went to, there were Russian artists performing live installations to protest the actions of the Russian government.

“There were these Russian protests artist. One artist became a dog for two months. Stripped himself naked and acted like a dog in order to protest. It was intense. I learned there are so many things you can do other than just painting as an art,” Goel said.

“It’s interesting how you meet people in art galleries and you discover so much about others,” Goel said.

Goal stated that if she had gone to London on her own, she would not have experienced one third of what she did through the study abroad program. For her, it was an energetic and informative month abroad.

(Photo courtesy of Jacob Elliott)

Junior Jacob Elliott visited London, England as well as Stratford-upon-Avon for a three week program during winter break. He ventured to London upon hearing about the program from his fraternity brothers, and was comforted that the trip was only three weeks–as he was initially hesitant toward studying abroad.

Elliott particularly enjoyed the liberty of exploring the city. As he visited during the holiday season, he was able to enjoy the many Christmas markets the city had to offer. One of his favorite parts of the trip included visiting different coffee shops, which was a fun hobby he took up after mastering the London transit system. A particular museum in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), was his second favorite part of the trip.

“I went there like four times. I thought it was such a cool museum. It was huge, and all their museums there are expansive and free to the public,” Elliot said.

The museum was also connected to a tube stop, the underground transit used in London, so he didn’t need to fight the cold to see the art.

On studying abroad, Elliot remarked that the experience was totally worth it although he was hesitant about it in the beginning. He was able to acknowledge all the things the trip taught him about himself upon visiting Avebury, a mysterious stone similar to the likes of stonehenge.

“We went there and Robin Metz, our professor, told us I want you to do a reflective free-write while you’re there, on your experiences here. Write whatever comes to mind,” Elliot said. “I really took that to heart and wrote a long thing about my experiences in London and what they have meant to me.That was one of the coolest moments for sure.”

(Photo courtesy of Libby Croce)

Junior Libby Croce traveled to St Andrews, Scotland where she studied at a university of the same name.

Croce described her living space for the past three months as “objectively the most beautiful place.” Living next to the music building, she awoke each morning to bagpipes playing outside her window. She spent many days watching the sunset from a tower among cathedral ruins, a short 30 yards from her dorm. Each day, she would attend classes in buildings on her campus that were more than 600 years old.

Croce chose Scotland to study abroad for a few reasons. As an English major, she aimed to explore another English speaking country. As a hopeful future professor, she wanted to learn more about the British experience of teaching English Literature. Croce observed that while many American literature classes are more theory centered, the British put more of an emphasis on close reading. While she described the welcoming nature of the country’s people as “warm and fuzzy,” she also found that classroom discussions varied from the typical discourse at Knox, as her fellow students were more reserved in sharing their opinions.

Outside of the classroom, Croce learned to adapt to the culture of Scotland surrounding her. She took particular notice of the fashion culture of the country, noting that many individuals make an effort to dress well. Amidst the multiple ballroom dances that were held on her campus, she commented that she was “really into the kilts.” Croce also learned the hard way that in the U.K., the term “pants” is the British equivalent to the American term “underwear.” She remarked that many things were reminiscent of Harry Potter for her, such as the dining halls and dances.

She also met up in Amsterdam with another friend studying abroad. She spent much of the short weekend exploring coffee shops and visiting the city’s famous Rijksmuseum, immersing herself in the rich art and history of the Dutch. After her 15 week stay, Croce concluded her trip.

“My favorite part was the people. I have made such great friends while I was there. The first day I got there I was like oh my God, I am alone,” Croce said. “Well, I’m alone looking over the ocean eating toast and jam and tea, like, life is really good but also I gotta meet some people–I didn’t realize I could develop such deep friendships in that semester’s worth of time. But that was amazing.”




Amn Farooq
Allie Glinski

Tags:  culture experiential learning Jordan scotland study abroad

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