Welcome, Zehra!

On November 7, the new Study Abroad Advisor, Zehra Abbas, started work in the Office of Study Abroad! Here is her introduction:

I am delighted to be here as the new study abroad advisor in the Center of Global Studies at Wesleyan. I have been working in higher education in various advising capacities for the past ten years. Most recently I graduated with a Master’s in Counselor Education in Student Development in Higher Education. I am extremely passionate about working and helping students during their college years as I reflect back on how crucial these years are we transition from school life to professional/adult life. Having a global perspective for each individual is an extremely important part of this development process. In my last experience I was a graduate intern at Yale where I worked with the international population, students, scholars and spouses and found my own views broadening and being enriched just from working with them without having to leave the country.

 

Personally I have travelled extensively around the world from early childhood. I’ve lived and attended international schools in Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, South Korea, Seychelles and Karachi, Pakistan. I also spent a year in London a few years ago. My parents loved to travel and we ended up seeing most of Asia during short vacations and holidays. I speak three languages and am currently (trying to!) learn two more on my own. I am passionate about learning new languages as they offer perspectives that are not possible to gain as a monolingual. I wish to encourage all students to consider various study abroad opportunities so they can enrich their own experiences and understanding of the world. There are innumerable benefits of cultural immersion and most of which can enhance not just our skill set and knowledge but affect us on a much deeper and personal level. I look forward to seeing you all soon, my office is located in Fisk Hall in the Center for Global Studies commons area.

 

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Teaching in Thailand: Tenzin Kyisarh, Fulbright

Tenzin Kyisarh, 2016, Anthropology

I am going to be a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Thailand next year. As a part of the fellowship, I will represent the country as a cultural ambassador while I am overseas, helping to enhance mutual understanding between Americans and the people in Thailand.

During my sophomore year at Wesleyan, I received the Summer Experience Grant through which I traveled to Thailand to teach English in the northern province of Chiang Rai. I got to meet a lot of wonderful people through that experience which also ignited my interest for teaching and deepened the love I have for the country. As a graduating senior, when I was looking for post-grad opportunities that would allow me to travel for a year to Asia, Fulbright looked like the ideal opportunity for me to do what I wanted. With my previous experience in Thailand that had already impacted me, I decided to apply for Fulbright Thailand.

I decided to apply for the fellowship because it will serve as a perfect blend of travel and work that I was looking for in my post-grad endeavors. It was also another great reason for me to go back to the country that initiated my self-reflection process. I hope to go to graduate school after my year abroad, but I am also open to the various changes that will come my way. I look forward to meeting the kids and interacting with them, and at the same time, learning more about myself.

One of the hardest things about the application process was actually waiting to hear back. Since Fulbright does not have an interview process and they recommend not to connect them after the submission, not knowing how your application was viewed or where you were in the process was very dreadful. However, though the semi-finalist notification does give you hope for your application, the waiting game after that (whether you are a finalist) is more difficult. With my experience, I realized that being calm and patient was key during the waiting process. Though you’ll be anxious and nervous about the future, being optimistic about the outcome definitely helps!

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Proyectos de grupo: Cómo sumergirte en la cultura española

By Thomas Dupont

Re-posted from the VWM Blog

En Wesleyan cuando elijo mis asignaturas, normalmente intento evitar clases que se caractericen por tres cosas: una hora de inicio antes de las 10:00 de la mañana, presentaciones orales y proyectos de grupo. Aunque hasta ahora he evitado clases antes de las 10:00 durante mi estancia en España, confieso que mi decisión de coger una clase que incluya proyectos en grupo ha marcado una diferencia enorme en cuanto a mi experiencia en este país.

Entiendo que esto pueda parecer simplista y banal en el contexto de todo un cuatrimestre, pero es verdad que trabajar en un grupo para un proyecto o presentación en las clases es una manera genial para conocer españoles y otros estudiantes en la universidad. Cuando escojas tus clases mira bien el plan de estudios y opta por las clases que más te interesen. Normalmente puedes ver el profe, los temas, y el tipo de trabajo que se pide en internet. Te recomiendo que cojas las clases que te van a obligar a trabajar y relacionarte con los demás estudiantes dentro y afuera del aula.

En mi asignatura “Información secreta y servicios de inteligencia: del espionaje a la seguridad global” (una clase superguay, ¿no te parece?) trabajo con otros dos estudiantes españoles que ahora son buenos amigos. Siempre hablamos cuando los veo por el campus, he estado en sus pisos cerca de la universidad para trabajar en nuestro proyecto, y ahora comemos juntos por la tarde sólo para pasar el rato.

Es fácil pensar que si eres una persona social y amable, vas a conocer gente naturalmente. Sin embargo, según mi experiencia es absolutamente necesario ponerse en situaciones en las que TIENES que hablar y trabajar en grupo con estudiantes españoles. También es necesario relacionarse con otra gente cuando no estés como una cuba en un bar o club.

Gracias a mi decisión de matricularme en una clase que me ha hecho hablar, trabajar y relacionarme con los estudiantes españoles he conseguido realmente sumergirme en la cultura española. He mejorado mucho mi español porque todas nuestras conversaciones y tareas se han realizado en español. He conocido tíos enrollados que me hacen sentirme implicado socialmente en la universidad, y porque paso mucho tiempo con ellos ahora tengo una mejor comprensión del sistema universitario de España y la cultura española en general.

Inspiring Language Barriers: Abby Gruppuso’s Fulbright to Taiwan

Abby Gruppuso, 2016, East Asian Studies

Next year I will be teaching English in Taichung, Taiwan through a Fulbright fellowship. The decision to apply for this fellowship was deeply influenced by my time abroad in Beijing in the fall of 2014. I studied in China through a six-person Middlebury language immersion program, complete with a semester-long language pledge. I found out that I was the only student who had never been to China, and I was the only student who didn’t study Mandarin in high school. I told myself that it didn’t matter; my language classes back at Wesleyan had prepared me well.  Although my Mandarin classes at Wesleyan provided me with the immensely useful skill of perfect tones, my vocabulary was lacking and my listening comprehension and conversation skills were nonexistent. During my semester in Beijing, I studied harder than I’ve ever studied before. I practiced characters for at least three hours a day, asked my teachers a million questions, and was constantly making conversation with my friends in order to catch up to the rest of the group. And after only a month and a half, I was confident enough in my language skills to go to the local 麻辣烫 (hot spicy soup) shop alone, to take the subway across the city, to give a ten minute presentation about 孔子的死亡观 (Confucius’ view of death), to take cooking lessons with a Sichuan chef, and to talk to a local man in the park about music.

Overcoming this challenge was the reason I decided to apply to teach English in Taiwan. There are students there who are facing, through a mirror, the same problem I was when I started studying Mandarin. I want to impart my experiential wisdom on them, because I know exactly how they feel. I want to teach them that no matter the height of the language barrier they face, they can climb over it. Through this fellowship, I hope to change a student’s life like the Middlebury program changed mine.

Preparing my application for Fulbright proved to be a difficult task, mostly because I wanted it so badly. I worked on my essays for many months, but was dissatisfied with every draft I came up with. It was just boring. I was under the impression that my application had to be formal, but that just isn’t who I am. The one thing I eventually did that turned the whole process around was reading sample essays from people who had gotten accepted. I discovered that I could approach the prompt in any way I wanted. And I’m a writer, so I told a story. Most of the first paragraph of this post is actually from my application. Instead of telling the committee why I wanted the Fulbright, I showed them through my experience and personality.

My biggest advice for writing fellowship applications would be to 1) read sample essays, 2) be patient, and 3) be yourself. Your essays will come together, so don’t stress. Start early and one day the inspiration will just strike. (I wrote my final personal statement in a half hour!) Don’t make yourself be something you’re not. Committees like that of Fulbright are looking for passionate one-of-a-kind people who will bring something valuable to classrooms abroad. And if they don’t want you for you, then it’s just not the right program. Apply to a few different things. Ultimately, each program is looking for something slightly different and you’ll end up with the perfect fit!

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Best,

Abby Gruppuso

Probar comidas raras

By Lydia Elmer

Re-posted from the VWM Blog

Todo el mundo dice que la mejor manera de llegar a conocer una cultura es a través de su comida. Pero cada uno tiene sus propios gustos y disgustos cuando se trata de la comida, así que puede ser difícil llegar a un país extranjero con alimentos y bebidas “únicos”. A mí me encanta la comida, y yo, esencialmente, como de todo. Así que he probado algunas de las comidas más especiales de España para vosotros. ¡Espero que pueda cambiar vuestra opinión y podáis probarlas vosotros mismos!

La morcilla:

oreja

La morcilla siempre triunfa como el plato más raro entre los estudiantes americanos. Para la mayoría, la idea de comer sangre es un choque grande. Sin embargo, la morcilla es un plato muy saludable y ¡puede ser muy rico también! Aunque hay muchos tipos y preparaciones de morcilla, la más común viene de Burgos, en el norte de España. Mi familia anfitriona viene de Burgos y comemos la morcilla tradicional por lo menos dos veces cada semana. La morcilla de Burgos es un embutido  de sangre de cerdo cocida y arroz. Aunque es un embutido, ¡la morcilla no lleva nada de carne! Si queréis comerla como un español, la mejor preparación es con pimientos fritos y pan.

Oreja de cerdo:

oreja

Después de la morcilla, la oreja de cerdo es el plato que normalmente da miedo a los estadounidenses. ¡Pero no os asustéis! La oreja de cerdo puede ser tan rico como un plato de beicon frito. Aunque existen varias preparaciones de oreja, la más común es oreja frita.  Se corta en rodajas finas que pueden ser freídas o hervidas. Se sirve con varias salsas como alioli o salsa brava. Oreja de cerdo es muy duro y correoso, por lo que la fritura añade una textura crujiente que crea un plato bastante salado y rico.Si os olvidáis de que estáis comiendo la oreja, podéis realmente disfrutar de este plato tradicional español.

Hay un montón de comidas españoles que son exclusivas de este hermoso país. Morcilla y oreja de cerdo son sólo algunos de los platos que valen la pena probar, incluso si pensáis que no os van a gustar. Con solo probar estas comidas ricas, he aprendido  y experimentado más sobre España que si sólo hubiera comido patatas bravas. Así que no tengáis miedo, y probad lo que podáis mientras estéis aquí. ¡Puede ser que echéis de menos la oreja cuando regreséis a casa!

Fulbright in Madrid: Leah Bakely

Leah Bakely, 2016, History, Hispanic Literatures and Cultures

Next year, I’ll be assistant teaching English at a high school in Madrid through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program.

What inspired me to apply for Fulbright? I studied abroad in Mexico spring of my junior year and didn’t want to come back to Wes (I actually strongly considered doing senior Fall there), so I figured if living abroad made me so happy, I might as well try to get funded to do it in the future. I also absolutely love being immersed in Spanish and I wanted another opportunity to continue learning the language.

I applied for Fulbright ETA specifically because, after sixteen years of school, I wanted a break from research, a break from sitting at a desk, but I still wanted to be able to travel. I also thoroughly enjoyed being a writing tutor at Wesleyan, particularly for ESL students, so I thought assistant teaching English would be a good way to to combine my interest in teaching ESL with my love of travel and need for a break from school. Lastly, I wanted to be in one place for the entire year and Fulbright offered me the opportunity to do that–and to choose the place.

As far as the application, condensing my entire life and all my aspirations into two pages and carving out the time to work on the application during the very busy beginning of the semester was a difficult process. For students wishing to apply to Fulbright or to a similar fellowship, I offer the following advice:

1) Start working on your essays early (like in August)!!

2) Take your essays to the writing workshop. A writing tutor was the only reason I was able to condense my second essay into one page.

3) Get as many people to edit your essays as you can; the more drafts you go through, the better.

Best of luck!

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Following a Passion: Claire Wright, Keasbey Scholarship

Claire Wright

Class: 2016

Majors: COL, Psychology, French

During the summer before my senior year I began thinking about post-graduate plans. As I talked to my class Dean and several mentors, I increasingly recognized that I was passionate about policy aimed at reducing and responding to gender violence. Throughout my time at Wesleyan I worked intensively on re-designing some of Wesleyan’s policies for the adjudication and sanctioning of sexual misconduct and my senior thesis analyzed medical aid responses to sexual violence in postcolonial nations. I knew that, eventually, I wanted to translate my experiences at Wesleyan into a more focused study of cross-cultural policy intervention. After expressing my interest in this field of policy work, both my class dean and mentors suggested that I consider applying for graduate school. I spent some time browsing different academic programs and ultimately decided to apply for the Keasbey Scholarship, which covers a two-year masters program at Oxford University. This fall I am heading to Oxford to study for an MPhil in Comparative Social Policy, focusing specifically on international responses to gender violence.

Throughout this application process, I worked closely with Kate Smith and I cannot stress enough how much I valued our conversations and her advice. The application process for fellowships and scholarships can be incredibly long, so here are a few friendly tips:

1) Find something that you’re truly passionate about: when you’re on your 15th revision of your personal statement, what really matters is that you care enough to complete the process.

2) Start your personal statement early: it’s much more fun if you have time to play around with ideas and write when you have the inspiration to do so.

3) Stay connected with your mentors throughout the process: my weekly meetings with Kate, and conversations with my mentors, helped me flesh out ideas, prepare for interviews, and stay motivated.

There are so many incredibly opportunities out there – even if you’re not sure what you want to do, I’d encourage you to stop by the Center for Global Studies and explore the options. Have fun!

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Lost + Found

A memoir of things lost and found during one student’s study abroad experience.

By Sophie Breitbart ’17

Lost: An iPod bursting with constantly updated music.
Found: An iPod dominated by podcasts like RadioLab and Spilled Milk that cuddle my ears on the tube or on long walks around the city.

Lost: Trust in Google Maps’ directions via public transport, which has proven to be woefully inaccurate (mostly for buses.)
Found: Myself, deposited in many unintended locations. But it turned out alright! Which brings me to…

Lost: A nervous heart that beat rapidly upon boarding a bus that would supposedly take me to my destination.
Found: Greater confidence in my ability to ascertain my physical location without a smartphone, usually via one of London’s ubiquitous, helpful street maps. Sometimes, a real live Brit would set aside their reserved nature and help! (Also found: new hand muscles thanks to probably at least 50 lists of handwritten directions!)

Lost: Lots of money. (Maybe not lost… more like spent.)
Found: Lots and lots and lots of experiences. (DUH it was worth it!) I’ve seen quite a few concerts, eaten lots of varied cuisine, and visited a long list of new places. I think food, transport, and travels outside London have been my biggest expenses here.

Lost: It was waning by the end of last semester anyway, but nonetheless, much of the infatuation I once felt with Wes.
Found: Knowledge of what life can be like after college and a growing excitement to pursue that life. Even though mine will probably involve grad school, which is sort of like a continuation of college, it’s another step in the path to move somewhere I choose where I’m supported by a heftier income and therefore possess greater personal freedom. Now that I’ve been exposed to so much, my desires for my future have intensified and grown in number.

And lastly-

Lost: A habit of constantly comparing myself with my peers, usually via Facebook, that too often incurred unhealthy levels of self-doubt (don’t worry, it’s normal, I’m a Millennial.) Also, for that matter, my Facebook account (until June.)
Found: A self that was much more content with my identity and methods of living. The chance to be more self-centered than usual, stemming from my choice of technologically isolating myself from American influences pretty significantly and, well, having a huge new city ready to be discovered at my doorstep… A new type of introspection that came from a much kinder and accepting place than before. I guess it seems obvious now, but this extraction of my virtual persona from a massive judging block surrounded by some very intimidatingly witty and pretty peers (read: unintended competitors) yielded great inner peace. My temporary resignation from Snapchat also facilitated this transition from a state of mind plagued by constant questions of how I could best show off my life to a new mindset where I could live my life according to my wishes, take some pictures for myself and my blog readers, and everyone else would have to make do with stories later on. Honestly, it was an exercise in self-love. Much will change when I return to the states, including social media presence, but I hope I can continue to fend off the tempting gratification that ongoing peer approval infamously provides.

Why Student Athletes Should Study Abroad

By Rachel Hobert ’16

As you’ve probably heard, studying abroad is an incredible opportunity that every college student should experience. It’s unlike any experience you’ve had or will ever have. I mean when else do you have the time and opportunity to prance around a foreign country for six months, immersing yourself completely in a new culture and environment? Over 50% of students at Wesleyan study abroad and regardless of your financial situation, major or sport, Wesleyan really does want to help you study abroad!

Now one of the biggest excuses for not studying abroad is the involvement in varsity athletics. Many of my friends play a sport here at Wesleyan and believe that going abroad is off the table of options. They claim that they need to be here to train in the off-season or that their coach won’t approve of them traveling abroad. As for spring and fall athletes, I would argue that studying abroad benefits them as student athletes. You gain experiences, confidence, new life skills and many other attractive traits that will help you grow as a competitive athlete. Now for winter sport athletes, studying abroad can be tricky as you need to be on campus for both semesters. But I highly encourage winter athletes to explore summer options, such as studying abroad for a summer month, internships or even playing their sport in a foreign country.

I could go on and on about how great studying abroad is, but I am going to keep it short. Here are three reasons why athletes should consider study abroad from my first-hand experience as an athlete.

  1. You learn how to adapt and lead in adverse environments

    Post Istanbul Half-Marathon

    Post Istanbul Half-Marathon

Adversity happens while living in a foreign culture. A language barrier makes successful everyday interactions like grocery shopping a victory. I have to say, about a month into my study abroad experience in Turkey, I broke down a cried because I accidently ordered (in Turkish) cow liver for lunch instead of chicken. It’s times like these that only a positive attitude helps (I know it sounds cliché but its true). My time abroad has taught me that there is only so much that you have control over so you might as well control how you react.

One of the hardest challenges I faced while abroad was the 24 hours prior to finishing the Istanbul Half Marathon. A friend and I had been training avidly for the race for five weeks prior. However, Duke in Istanbul planned a weeklong spring break trip for our study abroad group that was scheduled to return the Saturday night before the half marathon. After a series of events, our flight returning to Istanbul was canceled, and it looked like we weren’t going to run the race. After a few hours of waiting around and pestering the Turkish Airline representative, we found a way back to Istanbul in time. We ended up taking a six-hour bus ride from Eastern Turkey to a different, centrally located airport. That night, we ate corn nuts for dinner and slept three hours before taking a 6:00 am flight back to Istanbul. We handed our bags off to fellow friends when we landed and took a cab directly to the race. We arrived at the starting line stepping out of the cab as the starting gun fired. We then proceeded to quickly eat a roll of Mentos for breakfast and immediately started running. We finished 13.1 miles in just under 2 hours and exhausted. After training so hard and so long for this race, a feeling of relief and success rushed over me as we limped across the finish line.

It’s circumstances like these that build character and prove to yourself that you can do so much more than you thought. It also provides an amusing story you can tell friends and family when returning. I came back to campus that the following Fall knowing that whatever soccer season threw my way; I could only control the controllable like my time in Istanbul.

  1. There are opportunities for you to play abroad.

My University Football team

My University Football team

What many athletes fail to realize is that there are a plethora of sports teams at universities abroad that you can join. Going abroad doesn’t meant you have to stop playing or working out for six months. At my college in Turkey, they had a men’s American football team, rugby, tennis, volleyball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, you name it! I joined the women’s football team that met three times a week and practiced. While the team wasn’t of Wesleyan caliber, I met amazing friends and was able to continue training for the next season. At the end of my term abroad, we competed against Serbian, Dutch and Lebanese teams in a tournament. It was incredible to see the skills of these girls and how I matched up.

Throughout the world, there are multiple universities with sports teams that you can join while studying abroad. It just takes a little research and interest, but I assure you, the opportunities are there, and it is 100% worth it.

  1. Sports bridges cultural gaps and helps you connect with locals

My close Turkish friends. We joke that they will finally visit the U.S. for my future wedding-in 10 years

My close Turkish friends. We joke that they will finally visit the U.S. for my future wedding in 10ish years.

I met two of my best friends while playing soccer at my university in Turkey. Not only did we go to practice together but they brought me out and around Istanbul. They also loved teaching me Turkish and would introduce me to cool new local coffee shops,restaurants and clubs that I would never have discovered if I had only remained friend with exchange students. We were able first to connect with sports but then found that we had other mutual interests such as dancing, food, and music. Even when meeting other students and locals in Istanbul, mention a Turkish football (soccer) team, and you would be able to talk for hours. Every culture has a love of sports, and it provides a bridge of common interest with interesting people from all around the world.

How To Be In Two Places At Once: Keeping Moments and Memories

By Sophie Breitbart

Resting in my hands lies a cloth-bound Lord of the Rings novel. Birds perched on the hedges fling their melodies in all directions, interrupted only by sheep conversing across the lane. The six o’clock sunlight is waning, and convinces its warmth to recede with it. As I sip some locally made, fresh-pressed apple juice, the noticeably mild air reminds me of my exceptionally remote location in Devon, England.The scene is almost laughably idyllic. However, my mind is struggling to appreciate it. Soon after I begin to embrace the beaming greenery, merry faunal choir, and peaceful atmosphere, I feel compelled to exit the moment so I can document it. Please, my mind begs, try to capture this place with pictures, videos, even notebook scrawls and with your happy face in the center! Then, I come to my senses. This is nuts. I’m stuck in a perfect moment and all I can think about is how to exploit it!

I know I’m not the only one who has wrestled with trying to appreciate a moment while being bombarded with questions about how to best live it. Maybe you’ve asked for a second seaside photo for the sake of a new profile picture, or taken 17 pictures of ducks because of a nagging fear about forgetting details. Today’s generation keenly perpetuates the idea that if you don’t “properly” document something (that’s a loaded word), it didn’t happen. So, how does one maintain balance when they’re experiencing what will soon be a memory?

When I was young, my parents brought disposable cameras on vacations. They captured the fleeting moments of my childhood, visits with extended family and friends, and maybe took a few shots of our location. Limited by about 50 exposures and concealed film, they were released from today’s constant pressure to critique images and dwell on the degree of their Facebook-readiness. We didn’t pose again and again in pursuit of the optimal shot. Instead, we could actually heed the verb in “vacation” and vacate our normal expectation-filled lives.

Today, more so than ever, we use photos to promote our personal brand on the internet, hoping to impress our peers and raise our virtual social ranking. We reason that posting vacation pics online allows us to maintain relationships with distant friends and family members as well as support our roles as travel ambassadors who courteously lead our “followers” on our lives’ adventures. We snap shot after shot after shot of the Eiffel Tower, checking off the “must do” activities imposed by society on our already-packed itineraries.

And yet, even in the digital age, I think it’s still possible to balance being in the moment and documenting it. Aside from reverting to the disposable camera, there are plenty of other ways to prevent forgetting, such as videos, musical playlists that encapsulate the vibes of the time, poetry, art, collages, and scrapbooking. Emotion-fueled travelogues age impeccably and, if written with care, can transport you back in time. Rereading the notes I wrote on a trip to Prague reminded me of the emotions I’d since forgotten: how it feels to first travel without “supervision,” the joy of realizing that I’d found someone I just knew I was going to love, and the evanescent details of first impressions. Finally, two basic questions have saved me from many a psychological pickle: “If I’m not satisfied with any of these pictures, should I just defer to Google Images?” and “What’s the main reason I’m here- to be or photograph?”

If all that fails, I have one last word of comfort: Some things aren’t meant to be recorded in the first place. Lying in the grass of London’s Victoria Park, I spot a tiny daisy gleaming in the sunshine. As this philosophical biologist is liable, I experience a brief spell of clarity about the scalar proportions of space and time. As the events of this moment overpower the strength of words or photographs, I abstain from attempting documentation. So be it if my Facebook friends can’t benefit from my little moment! A beautiful thing happened and I was fortunate enough to experience it. And in the end, that’s what matters.

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.” -Toni Morrison

Sophie Breitbart is a junior at Wesleyan University studying evolution and biogeography. In June, she wraps up a 5-month stint studying abroad in London. You can read more about her time there, her quest to learn more about the Big Themes of life, and her never-ending war with social media over at Clotted Cream Dreams.

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