African Studies Students Go Abroad
Undergraduate Student Reports
Rebecca Hamman. B.A, International Programs and Studies (IPS) in African Studies.
Becky spent two months volunteering in South Africa during the summer of 2009. Through the Non-Profit, African Impact, Becky was assigned to teach HIV/AIDS awareness classes in local elementary schools as well as to assist nurses by taking down patients' temperatures and weights at one of the area health clinics. The experience was both rewarding and paramount in shaping Becky's goals for the future. This fall she will attend the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London to obtain an MSc in Development Studies. She hopes to return to South Africa to continue to work with non-profits and hopefully improve how such organizations operate and assist their communities.
Graduate Student Reports
Andrew Clinard. Second year M.A. student, African Studies and Crop Sciences; Areas of Specialization: Agroecology, Smallholder Agriculture, and Swahili.
I have been fortunate enough to study abroad multiple times over the past few years in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Panama. One of these trips was an academic study abroad for a semester in Tanzania which focused on issues of conservation and political ecology, while the other few trips were independent travels geared towards gaining experience working on farms in order to understand the issues facing smallholder farmers. Throughout these months spent abroad, I was fortunate enough to grow intellectually, socially, and even physically (amazing hospitality!). As my focus has been small-scale agriculture, I have spent time living with various farmers in order to understand various cultures, languages, and the challenges that confront various groups. Returning to the university, these experiences have been crucial in contextualizing concepts encountered in each of my courses from political ecology to international planning to insect pest management. The benefits of studying abroad are limitless and life changing. Currently I am helping coordinate a winter study abroad trip to Kenya that explores the impacts of the international trade of various horticultural products.
Tim Mahrt. PhD student in Linguistics, Phonology and Speech Recognition as well as well as issues of language policy and linguistic minorities; Area of specialization: Egypt.
Studying abroad was a life-changing experience for me. Even when I consider my experiences studying Arabic at the American University in Cairo and seeing the amazing natural and historical sites in Egypt, the aspect that had the biggest impact on me was connecting with Egyptians. I would stay up until the early hours of the morning discussing religion, language, politics, and culture with my friends over tea at a local cafe. My experiences there have given me a new perspective. Now when I see mention of Egypt in the media, I understand it through a different light--one that was only possible to obtain by going there.
Dinah Armstead. Doctoral candidate, Global Studies in Education, Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership; Graduate minor in African Studies; Foreign Language Area Studies Fellow, Arabic, 2011-2012
Summer in Fes, Morocco I had the wonderful opportunity to spend two months in Fes, Morocco studying both Moroccan (called, "Darija) and Classical Arabic. I studied at the "International Institute for Languages and Cultures (INLAC)*" which was created in Fes by Dr Fatima and Dr Moha Ennaji, both of whom are from Morocco and received their doctorates in the U.S. and have also widely published on language, culture and gender in English, French and Arabic.
In Morocco, we had one month of homestays with Moroccan families, and also lived a month in a hotel. My Moroccan family was great. The second night I was with them, the mom prepared a rice with milk dish. On top, she wrote my name using cinnamon. I felt so welcomed! I had three Moroccan "brothers", -Taha, Budr, and Sed, ages 18, 10 and 7 respectively. We had a lot of fun together, hanging out and laughing. I played soccer with the youngest two, and tutored the oldest, Taha, in English because while I was there, he took his exams and passed his "Bac" with English as his main focus. My Moroccan mom also spent time with me. She tutored me in both Darija and classical Arabic, and taught me how to make a kind of Moroccan biscuit.
It was a thoroughly worthwhile experience. At times, it was difficult for example, the temperature did reach 104 degrees F for a couple of weeks, but you do what Moroccans do at those times and stay indoors during the hottest part of the day, coming out in the evening.
Class was a bit of a challenge at times, but I learned a lot. I was in the intermediate class, which was the lowest level at the institute. We had one hour of dialect and two hours of classical Arabic a day. All our teachers were Moroccans. We also had "language partners" with whom we had individual conversation time.
Finally, we were encouraged to be in a club or volunteer in the community. This was my favorite part of the summer, as I was able to volunteer in an orphanage! There were about 110 children in this orphanage which reminded me of a boarding school. The kids were pretty big- about 7-9 years. The majority were boys which led me to our successful activity which consisted of making for them paper airplanes and boats, and teaching them how to do it themselves. I learned how to do this growing up because I had four brothers in my family.
During our last week in Morocco, the month of Ramadan began. It was definitely an interesting part of our stay, culture-wise because we learned about how important both prayer and giving to the poor were during this time. Also, we observed that the family times in the evening were very special and close. As a matter of fact, on and our last day, we had big family-style evening celebration amongst ourselves and all the teachers and language partners from the school, beginning with "al futour", the meal eaten right after sundown to break the fast. We also had an end of the summer "showcase" where people sang, danced, did poetry and put together a short video about our time in Morocco. It was nice to receive certificates from the institute with our names written in Arabic to commemorate or time spent in Morocco.
After a few weeks of being back, I looked at my certificate and I reminisced about all the activities we did, the places we visited, and the Moroccan friends we made. And then, one day back home I opened my Facebook account and I had a very special request on my page. It was a 'family' request from Taha, the oldest son from my host family, asking if he could include in his Facebook profile that he was my "brother". Of course, I clicked, "accept" immediately. And, as we discussed before I left, we hope that one day soon he'll be able to come visit me here in the States, inshallah.
*International Institute for Languages and Cultures (INLAC): http://www.inlac.net